Roger Waters: The Man Behind the Wall by Dave Thompson is a history of Pink Floyd centered on bass player and song writer Roger Waters. Thompson is no stranger to the music industry. He has written over one hundred books, mostly covering rock and pop music. Most notably his has written on U2, Depeche Mode, Phish, ZZ Top, Bowie, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also included in his work is one of my favorites Dancing Barefoot, a Patti Smith Biography. Thompson is well versed on the topic of Rock and Roll and to his credit he presents an honest view on his subjects and avoids the sensationalism usually associated with Rock and celebrity biographies.
Roger Waters is basically a two part book. The first part is a Waters-centric biography of Pink Floyd starting with The Walland ending with the the band breaking apart after The Final Cut. Rogers is tired of the “Space Rock” tag, guitar solos, extravagant keyboard work, and fans who preferred to get stoned and watch the light show and listen to the music rather than rising to his lyrics. The book then regresses back to his childhood and brings the reader to the beginnings of Pink Floyd.
Rogers can’t seem to catch a break musically. He puts togetherThe Wall and with it Pink Floyd releases a single, something they had not done before. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” was a commercial success, but the stand out song was not originally intended for the album. David Gilmour’s Comfortably Numb was added for need of an extra song and turned out to be “the king of the castle.” This happens again to Rogers on The Final Cut; Gilmour performs vocals on only a single song (Not Now John) and that turns out to be the most memorable song on the album.
The second part starts with the birth of Pink Floyd. It covers the problems and the eccentricities of Syd Barrett and the making of all the Pink Floyd albums. Thompson provides a detailed history and account of the band. This section reverts back to Rogers after covering Barrett. Rogers is certainly a complex person and artist. I took a particular interest in reading about my favorite Pink Floyd album — Animals. Thompson describes the album in a way that I never saw before, and perhaps the explains the reason it remains my favorite Pink Floyd album. The album came out at the beginning of the British punk movement. Animals has the Pigs (war mongers), Dogs (corporate greed), and Sheep (people blindly lead to slaughter). The album was well received by the American punk community and may have had something to do with Johnny Rotten losing his “I Hate Pink Floyd” shirt. A comparison is made of the reception of using the 23rd Psalm in “Sheep” by Pink Floyd and the controversy around Patti Smith using it in “Privilege”… of course, Smith does follow up the Psalm with repeatedly “taking the Lord’s name in vain”.
Roger Waters gives a detailed history of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters role in the band as well as touching on Water’s solo ventures (Gilmour’s solo work is practically ignored). This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to learn more about one of the greatest bands in Rock and Roll. There is no muckraking or sensationalism in the book. If anything, the author may have believed David Gilmour’s famous quote. “…Some people think of us as a very drug orientated group. ‘Course we’re not. You can trust us.” All in all an excellent read.
Book Review: The Pinata Pages: Commentary on Our Times
The Pinata Pages: Commentary on Our Times by Rachel Gladstone-Gelman is a collection of articles from the author’s former blog. Gladstone-Gelman earned an MA in Teaching ESOL and has previously published a poetry collection and two chapbooks. She is described as being fiercely political and a strong advocate of voter’s rights, the environment, animal rights, gun control, and other social concerns. She now lives with her family in Canada and can be found at pinatapoet.com
Many of us have a politician or political event that makes us examine our own lives or sets our path. My parents raved over JFK and for my grandmother it was FDR. For me, it was Ronald Reagan. My enchantment with politics didn’t last. By the time I earned my MA in International Relations, I was completely fed up with mainstream American politics. Glastone-Gelman’s moment came with the election of Stephan Harper as Canadian Prime Minister and she deleted her blog. From what I have gathered ,from the few Canadians I have talked to, Harper is an evil super-villain created by right wing American Republicans from the collective DNA of the George W. Bush Administration; I exaggerate, but, well, politics is hyperbole.
“However, those who will not be swayed are liable to kill a law that can save lives. When you wake up under hybrid governance, you don’t see Stalin or Mao, only fearful Americans bent on invoking those ghosts.”
The Pinata Pages covers a wide range of social issues and at times the hypocrisy that accompanies them. No one likes high taxes but complaining about taxes, and at the same time taking full advantage of all the tax payer funded services is a bit ‘hypocritical. Taking care of our planet is covered: “Fracking is goading Earth to crack and shake more often, and only the ethically challenged would see it as no big deal.” Airport security: Gladstone-Gelman gives America’s own TSA a working over when she compares it to Ben Gurion Airport or even Greyhound. Most importantly, it all seems to be money and how it is used.
Many political blogs make their stand with axes and torches slashing and burning not only what stands against their cause but anything in the area. Gladstone-Gelman takes on the issues with a laser. No matter the issue, she addresses in a straight forward manner and genuinely believes in what she is writing. She takes a strong stand and shows no hypocrisy.
Books (and blogs) like The Pinata Pages are important and necessary. Many Americans think of Canada as a liberal paradise (or hell, depending on your political posture). Canada is neither extreme leftist nor a product of conservative America evil doers. However, Gladstone-Gelman, along with many others, do not like to see middle or lower middle class electing governments that work against their interests. The word needs to get out, and The Pinata Pages does this in a very educated, level headed, way:
“When I look back at the ’70s and then at what civilization has accomplished/done until now, all I can say is that civilization took some really cool ideas and has been using them, mostly, the wrong way.”
I couldn’t agree more. Excellent read for both Americans and Canadians. As political commentary, it rates four and a half stars.
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