Amused to Death

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Amused to Death
Roger Waters Amused to Death.jpg
Studio album by Roger Waters
Released 1 September 1992
Recorded 1987–1992
Genre Rock,[1] progressive rock
Length 72:45
Label Columbia
Producer Patrick Leonard, Roger Waters, Nick Griffiths
Roger Waters chronology
The Wall – Live in Berlin
(1990)The Wall – Live in Berlin1990
Amused to Death
The Legend of 1900
(1999)The Legend of 19001999
Roger Waters studio chronology
Radio K.A.O.S.
(1987) Radio K.A.O.S.1987
Amused to Death'
(1992) String Module Error: Match not found1992
Ça Ira
(2005) Ça Ira2005
Alternative cover
2015 remastered version cover
2015 remastered version cover
Singles from Amused to Death
  1. "What God Wants, Part I"
    Released: 24 August 1992
  2. "The Bravery of Being Out of Range"
    Released: 1992
  3. "Three Wishes"
    Released: 1993

Amused to Death is the third studio album by Roger Waters. It was released in 1992.

A remastered remix for which Waters worked with James Guthrie was released in 2015.

Background and composition[edit]

Roger Waters started working on Amused to Death in 1987 when he first wrote "Perfect Sense".[2] It was several years before the album was released and it is unknown how much the material was changed in the interim. The album's artwork features a chimpanzee watching television in reference to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.[3] The image on the TV is a gigantic eyeball staring at the viewer.[3] According to Waters, the ape was "a symbol for anyone who's been sitting with his mouth open in front of the network and cable news for the last 10 years."[2] The album's title was inspired by Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death.[3] The album is organised loosely around the idea of an ape randomly switching channels on a television,[4] but explores numerous political and social themes, including critiques of the First Gulf War in "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" and "Perfect Sense".

The first song, "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard", features a sample of World War I veteran Alfred "Raz" Razzell, a member of the Royal Fusiliers (much like Waters' father Eric Fletcher Waters had been in World War II) who describes his account of finding fellow soldier William "Bill" Hubbard, to whom the album is dedicated, severely wounded on the battlefield. After failed attempts to take him to safety, Razzell is forced to abandon him in no-man's land. This sample is continued at the end of the title track, at the very end of the album, providing a more upbeat coda to the tragic story. The track also features the sound of several animals.[4] The second song, "What God Wants, Part I", follows and contrasts the moving words of Razzell by opening with the TV being tuned instead into an excerpt that sounds like it's taken from a vox pop of a child who says, "I don't mind about the war. That's one of the things I like to watch – if it's a war going on. 'Cos then I know if, um, our side's winning, if our side's losing..." he is then interrupted by the channel change and a burst of ape-chatter.

"Perfect Sense" is a two-part song about a world where live transmissions of wars are the main form of entertainment.[2] The first part of the song begins with a loud, unintelligible rant, and then a backwards message voiced by Waters: "Julia, however, in the light and visions of the issues of Stanley, we changed our minds. We have decided to include a backward message. Stanley, for you, and for all the other book burners." The message climaxes with Waters yelling in the aggressive Scottish voice he used to depict the character of the teacher in The Wall. In the second part, famed sportscaster Marv Albert narrates a war as if it were a basketball game.

"The Bravery of Being Out of Range" includes a reference to a song written by Waters on Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals, "Sheep" (and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"[5]). (In "Sheep", Waters sings "I've looked over Jordan and I have seen / Things are not what they seem"; in "The Bravery of Being Out of Range", he sings "I looked over Jordan and what did I see / I saw a U.S. Marine in a pile of debris".) "Late Home Tonight, Part I" recalls the 1986 US air strike against Libya from the perspective of two "ordinary wives" and a young American F-111 pilot. At the beginning of "What God Wants, Part II", Charles Fleischer (better known as the voice of Roger Rabbit) performs the greedy evangelist's sermon. "What God Wants, Part III" musically references the Pink Floyd songs "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part I)", "Echoes", and "Breathe (In the Air)" The song "Watching TV" (a duet with Don Henley) explores the influence of mass media on the Chinese protests for democracy in Tiananmen Square. In the song "It's a Miracle", Waters makes a scathing reference to Andrew Lloyd Webber (whom he would accuse elsewhere of having plagiarised music from Pink Floyd's "Echoes" for sections of the musical The Phantom of the Opera):[6]

We cower in our shelters, with our hands over our ears
Lloyd Webber's awful stuff runs for years and years and years
An earthquake hits the theatre, but the operetta lingers
Then the piano lid comes down and breaks his fucking fingers
It's a miracle

"It's A Miracle" features a sample from the 1977 low-budget zombie film Shock Waves in which the film's characters wrestle over a flashlight.[7] The title track begins with the lyric, "Doctor, Doctor". "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the first song written by Waters, opens with the same line.

Recording and samples[edit]

Amused to Death was produced by Patrick Leonard, Waters, and was co-produced with Nick Griffiths in London at The Billiard Room, Olympic Studios, CTS Studios, Angel Studios and Abbey Road Studios. The album was engineered by Hayden Bendall, Jerry Jordan, and Stephen McLaughlan and mixed by James Guthrie.[8] The album is mixed in QSound to enhance the spatial feel of the audio, and the many sound effects on the album – rifle range ambience, sleigh-bells, cars, planes, distant horses, chirping crickets, and dogs – all make use of the 3-D facility.

Waters stated in an interview with Rockline on 8 February 1993 that he had wanted to use dialogue samples from 2001: A Space Odyssey on the album, specifically HAL 9000's 'dying' monologue. Stanley Kubrick, the film's director, turned him down on the basis that it would open the door to many other people using the sound sample.[9] Others think that Kubrick refused because Pink Floyd had not allowed him to use music from Atom Heart Mother in his film A Clockwork Orange.[10] Waters did use the samples of HAL describing his mind being taken away when performing live – specifically at the beginning of "Perfect Sense, part I" during his In the Flesh tour, after Kubrick's death, and it was finally incorporated into the Amused to Death album for the 2015 remaster / remix release.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune 1.5/4 stars[11]
Entertainment Weekly A–[12]
Los Angeles Times 2.5/4 stars[13]
Spectrum Culture 3.5/5 stars[14]

Amused to Death reached No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart, Waters' first Top 10 in his homeland, and a career high of No. 21 on the Billboard 200, aided by "What God Wants, Part I", which hit No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1992. It was also certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry for sales of over 60,000 in the UK.[15]

In Postman's later book The End of Education, he remarks on the album: "(...) Roger Waters, once the lead singer of Pink Floyd, was sufficiently inspired by a book of mine to produce a CD called Amused to Death. This fact so elevated my prestige among undergraduates that I am hardly in a position to repudiate him or his kind of music."[16]

In 2012, Classic Rock Review wrote: "For what turned out to be his final solo studio album (to date, 20 years and counting), Roger Waters composed a complex (and often confused) concept album called Amused to Death. Lyrically, the album is brimming with hate on a variety of subjects from capitalism to America to religion to war to television to Stanley Kubrick to Andrew Lloyd Weber."[17]

"My view is that I've been involved in two absolutely classic albums – The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall," Waters told Classic Rock. "And if you haven't got Amused to Death, you haven't got the full set. So this album – the live one, which pulls together songs from all three albums – hopefully redresses the balance."[citation needed] On 19 September 2013, Waters told BBC HardTalk that Amused to Death has been completely underrated.[18][19]

On 15 April 2015, Waters announced that the album would be remastered and reissued on 24 July 2015 featuring a new 5.1 multichannel audio mix, as well as a new stereo mix. It was made available in a number of formats, including CD, SACD, Blu-ray and high-resolution downloads.[20]

In a review of the 2015 remastering of the album, journalist J.C. Maçek III of Spectrum Culture wrote that "Not every album can be a masterpiece, but Waters has stated that Amused to Death is an underrated effort that serves as a third part to Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. But it’s nowhere near those other albums. The 2015 remastering makes it a good sounding album, but it’s just not the kind of infinitely listenable album that Waters is capable of creating."[14]

In 2016 Amused to Death won the Grammy Award for Best Surround Sound Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. The winners were listed as follows: "James Guthrie, surround mix engineer; James Guthrie & Joel Plante, surround mastering engineers; James Guthrie, surround producer (Roger Waters) Label: Columbia/Legacy"

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Roger Waters.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard" 4:20
2. "What God Wants, Part I" 6:00
3. "Perfect Sense, Part I" 4:14
4. "Perfect Sense, Part II" 2:51
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" 4:44
6. "Late Home Tonight, Part I" 4:01
7. "Late Home Tonight, Part II" 2:12
8. "Too Much Rope" 5:47
9. "What God Wants, Part II" 3:39
Side three
No. Title Length
10. "What God Wants, Part III" 4:08
11. "Watching TV" 6:06
12. "Three Wishes" 6:52
Side four
No. Title Length
13. "It's a Miracle" 8:30
14. "Amused to Death" 9:06
Total length: 01:12:45


Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Amused to Death - Roger Waters Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c White 1992, p. 5
  3. ^ a b c Rose 2015, p. 191
  4. ^ a b Rose 2015, p. 200
  5. ^ "ATD Analysis". Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  6. ^ Q magazine, November 1992,"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  7. ^ " Customer Reviews: Shock Waves". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Rose 2015, p. 254
  9. ^ Archived 4 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "The Kubrick FAQ Part 4". Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  11. ^ Caro, Mike (3 September 1992). "Amused to Death". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Sandow, Greg (11 September 1992). "Amused to Death Music Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Boehm, Mike (13 September 1992). "Amused to Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Maçek III, J.C. (August 11, 2015). "Amused to Death". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved August 13, 2015. 
  15. ^ BPI Certifications, British Phonographic Industry, archived from the original on 15 January 2013, retrieved 5 May 2010 
  16. ^ "ATD - Neil Postman's Response". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "Amused to Death by Roger Waters Review". 
  18. ^ "BBC News Channel - HARDtalk, Roger Waters - Musician". BBC. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  19. ^ BBC HARDtalk - Roger Waters - Musician (19/9/13). YouTube. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "Roger Waters announces newly remixed version of Amused to Death". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  21. ^ a b c "ROGER WATERS". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Roger Waters". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Roger Waters". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "Roger Waters". Dutch Charts. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  25. ^ "Roger Waters". German Charts. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  • Rose, Phil (2015). Roger Waters and Pink Floyd: The Concept Albums. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781611477610. 
  • White, Timothy (August 1, 1992). "Roger Waters' 'Death' & Rebirth". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 104 (31). ISSN 0006-2510. 

External links[edit]