The Final Cut is 35
UPDATE: I rewrote this article for the 40th anniversary on 21 Mar 2023. You can read that newer one here (in fact I urge you to do so), but I left the original online for historical sake.
I’m going to write a little about an album that turns 35 years old today (Mar 21, 2018). Originally came out when I was still in High School (!!) – Mar 21, 1983. I’m speaking of “The Final Cut” by Pink Floyd. It was the final Floyd album with Roger Waters, and the only one of the 15 Floyd studio albums without keyboardist Rick Wright on it. Was originally called “Spare Bricks” (which speaks to it’s origins in the “Wall” sessions).
“The sun is in the east
Even though the day is done.
Two suns in the sunset
Could be the human race is run.”
Those are lyrics about nuclear war (“Two Suns in the Sunset”). If you’re someone who has followed Pink Floyd for a very long time, there’s three things you know about Waters lyrics:
- They’re political
- They’re depressing
- Mostly they’re about the death of his Father
This album has all three – in spades. At the time I was coming off the high of Floyd’s album “The Wall”. That was at the time my first “new new” Pink Floyd album, and it dominated my musical landscape like nothing else ever did. It even made me try and pick up a guitar and play, but that didn’t go well. haha.
Anyway, since the Wall had already been released, I was waiting for the next “new” Pink Floyd release after the Wall. That ended up being a rather disappointing greatest hits album called “A Collection of Great Dance Songs” (which in itself is a joke, as you can’t dance to Pink Floyd). So I waited. We then got the Wall movie, and to that there was a single released. It was called “When the Tigers Broke Free”. This was an extra/new song for the Wall movie. The single said “From the forthcoming album ‘The Final Cut’”. At the time, the album The Final Cut was to be a soundtrack to the movie, as about 60% of the music wasn’t from the original album.
So time went on, and the soundtrack was never released. The Falkland Island War came around, it got Roger Waters to write some new songs, and those were coupled together with some leftovers from the Wall sessions to make what was released in 1983 as The Final Cut. Given this was 1983, I wasn’t buying CD’s yet. I bought this on pre-recorded cassette tape. I also wasn’t driving yet, so this tape adorned my Walkman at the time, my boombox, and the home stereo. It got used. A lot. In fact, I listened to little else of my own choice. This was definitely a “turn the tape back over to side one and play again” – big time. I didn’t quite wear out the cassette (that did happen with the next Floyd album in 1987), but I played the heck out of this in the Summer of 1983.
It’s a very disjointed album. Some parts are loud. Most parts are soft. From a music (not lyrics) standpoint, it’s all over the place. It really feels more like a Roger Waters solo album than a Pink Floyd album. At this point in the band’s history, the Keyboardist (Rick Wright) was gone (effectively fired by Waters), there were some real personnel battles behind the scenes (Gilmour & Waters at each other’s throats) – any semblance of “Band” left was destroyed during the making of this album. There was no tour for this album – no live dates period. But out of the sessions came some really good songs for me. Not Now John (the hardest song of the lot), The Final Cut (a Wall leftover, so much so that the lyrics say “behind the wall” in them), The Gunner’s Dream, The Fletcher Memorial Home (named after Rog’s dad, Eric Fletcher Waters).. All good.
What’s odd is I love the thing despite it’s wonderfully depressing atmosphere. The music is minimalistic, I think it fits the theme of the lyrics well. As much as I love this album, I don’t think it is for everyone. Definitely one of the least accessible Floyd albums (although it really feels like Waters solo material). I mean, the “extra” song (When the Tigers Broke Free) is one of the most emotional, and most depressing songs Pink Floyd ever put out. I LOVE IT.
David Gilmour has trashed the album over time. He said during production (I’m paraphrasing), “These songs weren’t good enough to go on ‘The Wall’, so why are they good enough now?” I don’t know if necessarily agree with that sentiment. The Wall album was originally going to be a triple studio album, so I’m guessing the songs here from there are what would have made up part of the third disc. The final song on the album doesn’t have longstanding drummer Nick Mason on it, either, it’s another drummer (Andy Newmark).
Most of the music as I said was minimalistic. David Gilmour is here, but is mostly hidden. Except for one song. The track “Not Now John” from this album is like the Pink Floyd of old. It’s a rocker, and while very out of place on this album, is probably the most accessible song. It’s also the song that has the lyrics “Fuck all that, we’ve got to get on with these”. It was released as a single, but even the band recognized that those lyrics would likely be a problem. So they recorded a second version of the song that has the lyrics as “Stuff all that, we’ve got…” That version was never on any variant of the album, and is fairly hard to find these days.
Most of the music isn’t like Not Now John, however. In a lot of ways this sounds a bunch like Roger Waters’ first (formal) solo album, “The Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking”. They both have a similar “sound” to them.
Speaking of it being a “sorta” Waters solo album, I’ll touch on the music video side. At the time, there was something called The “Final Cut Video EP”. It contained four music videos for the songs “The Gunner’s Dream”, “The Final Cut”, “Not Now John”, and “The Fletcher Memorial Home”. The band is not in any of them. The only one of them to make an appearance is Roger Waters, who appeared in “The Final Cut”, but only in a partially shaded version of his head (there’s a screen capture of that further up in this story). No Gilmour, no Mason, no band footage, nothing. Really was an odd feel.
So yeah, I love the masterfully depressing album The Final Cut. It was about the death of Roger’s dad, it was the death of Pink Floyd, and my favorite song on the album (Tigers) is all about death and sadness. Go enjoy the album – if you put some thought into it, I think you’ll like it too.
This album has been released and re-mastered a few times over the years.
The original versions did not have “When the Tigers Broke Free”. The version I originally bought 35 years ago on cassette didn’t have it.
That wasn’t added into the album until the 2004 remaster. After all those years listening to the album, having an extra song added in there was jarring, but over time, I got used to that and accepted it as part of the proper album.
The album again was re-released in 2011 as part of the “Why Pink Floyd” campaign, and had the same mastering (to my ears) as the 2004 version.
It was also released AGAIN in 2016 as part of the release where Floyd’s music finally turned up on the digital services such as Spotify, Apple Music, etc… That version appears to be the same. If you seek out the album, make sure it’s at least the 2004 version, so you get “Tigers”.
So this album turns 35 years old today. It was released about two months or so before I graduated High School, which all of a sudden makes me feel really old. I mean it doesn’t feel like I graduated HS 35 years ago.
I wrote this article in small chunks during the day today inbetween other things going on. To that, I had “The Final Cut” on via headphones during this time. To honor my 1983 self, I played the album five times back to back to back to…. It was something the 18 year old version of me would have done if he was around in 2018. ;)
Finally, just one question to close out with. What is a “group of anonymous Latin-American meat packing glitterati” exactly?
Update Jan 2021:
When the pandemic started in the spring of 2020, and everyone was on lockdown, I did something I hadn’t done since about 1985. I bought a record player. Apparently being in lockdown made me want to listen to physical vinyl again. I then set out to reacquire several old favorites from the past. One of which was The Final Cut. So I own that on vinyl, with a new purchase in 2020. It has Tigers on it. ;)
I even broke out the old single I’ve had since 1982 and spun that again for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Join the Conversation
Great review, Joe. I think you covered pretty much everything I would have wanted to in discussing this one. My feelings about THE FINAL CUT were conflicted for many years. It was too easy to simply view this album as a second rate epilogue for THE WALL. With time and maturity, I began to see how profound Roger’s lyrics were in dealing with his feeling about the loss of his father, war and world leaders. And yes, it’s hard to believe this was released 35 years ago. I vividly remember the day I purchased the vinyl album from a pharmacy in Guilderland, NY in 1983. It makes us feel both a little older than we’d want, but is also a perfect time capsule to take us back to high school.
Excellent review of one of my favourite Pink Floyd albums an absolutely wonderful read well done ???