The Final Cut is 40
Five years ago when Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut turned 35, I wrote an article about it. Now that it’s turning 40, I’m taking that piece and using it as the foundation for this article about it turning 40.
This album originally came out when I was in High School – was originally released on 21 Mar 1983 in the UK, and on 2 Apr in the US. That pains me as it means my High School graduation is also 40 in a few weeks. 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:
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. That might have something to do with me trying to imitate a guitar god like David Gilmour when not being able to play a lick. But I digress…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.
I adored the wonderfully depressing tone of “When the Tigers Broke Free”. I still have this 45″ all these years later, and when I got a record player again in the Spring of 2020 (right when Covid lockdowns started), I broke out this old 45 and played it. Here’s the proof. I actually wrote a separate, smaller article specifically about Tigers back in 2005. You can check that out here.
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. Unfortunately I don’t still have that cassette from 1983. I have some from the 80’s still, but not this one. No clue what happened to it.
To this day when I listen to “Tigers”, I still sing the lyrics out loud, and given the incredibly depressing content in the lyrics, I always find it bizarre me quite emphatically singing things like “They were all left behind, most of them dead, the rest of them dying”. It happened today (21 Mar 2023) driving around in the car!
This picture is not mine (found it on Etsy), but is what my memory says my old 1983 copy of the cassette tape looked like.
As for the album itself, 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. Some songs like Not Now John are in your face. Some are much slower like Southhampton Dock. Then there’s things I always liked. Specifically a moment in The Gunner’s Dream. At 1:22 there’s a mid range part of the song, but there’s one very short drum beat by Nick Mason – just four “notes” as such. But it’s super emphatic, a thing I always liked. Contrast is a big selling point here. There’s a bit in “Paranoid Eyes” when the soundscape has an etherial feel to it. The piece with the lyrics “you believed in their stories of fame fortunate and glory”. Love the feel that has in my headphones.
The album 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 during the Wall sessions), 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 planned – 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 its 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. 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 never released third disc of “The Wall”. 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 or kept in the background or isn’t the main focus. 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 musically 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 only available in physical form in a single.
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, with a lot of Roger’s singing more like his “talking singing”..
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. Still, it was “new Pink Floyd”, so I was all over it. As far as I know, the combined single video hasn’t been released digitally, but the four song videos have been. They’re all in this article somewhere.
As I mentioned before, there were no live dates for this album, and as such, appearances of the songs from it live are fairly rare. In fact, off the top of my head, I can only recall it happening twice. The first time was on Roger’s 1987 tour for his Radio KAOS album where the band played “Not Now John”. On some dates on that tour he also played a Final Cut Medley with bits of “Get Your Filthy Hands off my Desert”, “Southampton Dock”, & “The Final Cut”, but that didn’t happen at the show I saw. KAOS concert footage was never officially released, but I found this video which has the band doing Not Now John live.
Roger toured the world in 2022/2023 on what he was calling the “This is Not a Drill” tour. I saw it in Dallas, and he broke out “Two Suns in the Sunset” from The Final Cut album. The setlist for this concert was a stream of Roger’s political grips, his thoughts on war, man’s threat to himself, and it culminates in “Two Suns”, which is about the endgame of all of this stuff – self destruction via nuclear war. In some ways if this really is his last tour, it’s a perfect song for him to end the tour on. When I saw it in Dallas, I recorded the song myself, so here’s my video of that being done live.
This album has been released and re-mastered a few times over the years. The original versions from 1983 did not have “When the Tigers Broke Free”.
Anyway, Tigers was not 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 as the 2004 album. If you seek out the album, make sure it’s at least the 2004 version, so you get “Tigers”.
The version I have on vinyl is from 2016. The version I have on CD was from the 2011 set where I picked up all the Floyd studio albums in one go on CD in a package called “Discovery”.
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 wrote the original 35th anniversary article (which is still online) in small chunks during the day today inbetween other things going on. The 40th version had a similar path to publication. I had to drive my daughter to school this morning, so on the way home I put on the album (singing the lyrics I mentioned above for Tigers). In driving around I thought about marking the moment on social media. My first thought was to just repost the same article, but then I remembered the updates since the original, and then wanted to add the video from the Waters concert a few months back, and decided to just create a new one that stands on the bones of the old one. So I got home, and started writing before work. That’s what you’re reading now. While I was working on this, I had the vinyl spinning in the background. When the album finished? Flipped the disc over and played it again. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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.
Finally, just one question to close out with. What is a “group of anonymous Latin-American meat packing glitterati” exactly?