Some albums are timeless, and some are so steeped in their decade that in a hundred years’ time you would be able to pinpoint exactly when they were recorded. The Final Cut – first released in 1983 – is in the latter category.
For those that remember 1983, it wasn’t the greatest of years. Maggie’s Britain was marching inexorably ahead, Yuppies were proliferating in the City, the rest of the workforce was starting to find out what hard work really meant, and inflation was running wild. Oh, and there had been a small war in the South Atlantic. We weren’t used to wars – they were something our parent’s generation had to put up with.
Things weren’t too rosy for Pink Floyd either. Four years after The Wall, The enmity between Roger Waters and – well, everyone else in the band, really – hadn’t been resolved. The Final Cut was a collection of songs written by Waters for The Wall but rejected by the band. It’s not a comfortable listen, though there is beauty in places, in the midst of bleakness.
Subtitled “A requiem for the post-war dream”, The Final Cut is a concept album with a vengeance – the theme being how ghastly life was in that period. For ex-soldiers, trying to come to terms with civilian life after the horrors they saw, as they survive in homes for the disabled. For those who lost a father in the fighting (did personal experience prompt Waters to write these songs? Answers on a postcard, please…) For those slaving away to keep afloat in a new, harsh economic world. This latter does at least spawn a song with some humour – Not Now John is, for those that worked through the era, all too telling and gave the band one of their rare top 30 singles.
When The Tigers Broke Free – the only song not on the original album: it was released as a 7″ single – epitomises the bleakness of the album as a whole. “It was just before dawn / one miserable morning in black forty-four / when the forward commander was told to sit tight / when he asked his men be withdrawn…” It’s the story of the annihilation of the Royal Fusiliers Company C, and has a nobility and a dignity that can’t be denied. It leads into The Hero’s Return, which presents a chilling contrast between the “banners and flags” at the war’s end and the memories for an individual soldier.
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert is a snippet of a track: “Brezhnev took Afghanistan / and Begin took Beirut / Galtieri took the Union Jack / and Maggie over lunch one day / took a cruiser with all hands / apparently to make him give it back.” Very clever, but don’t sing it to the crew of the Sheffield.
For a generation for whom the Falklands War – let alone the second world war – is a memory only for their parents (or grandparents), some of these songs will seem very remote indeed. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important, but it does suggest that this album isn’t going to fly off the shelves. There is little of the earlier glorious music (pre-Wall, that is), though it shines though in occasional bursts.
One has to wonder why this album has been remastered and re-released. Is Roger Waters short of a few bob? The Final Cut may have spent 25 weeks in the charts in 1983, but the record-buying public now has other worries. A remastered version of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – now that would have us rushing to the tills.