Amused to Death
|Amused to Death|
|Studio album by Roger Waters|
|Released||1 September 1992|
|Roger Waters chronology|
|Roger Waters studio chronology|
2015 remastered version cover
|Singles from Amused to Death|
Amused to Death is the third studio album by English musician Roger Waters, released on September 1, 1992, on Columbia. A remastered remix that Waters worked with James Guthrie on was released in 2015.
Background and production
Roger Waters started working on Amused to Death in 1987 when he first wrote "Perfect Sense." It was several years before the album was released and it is unknown how much the material was changed in the interim.
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 Recording Studios and Abbey Road Studios. The album was engineered by Hayden Bendall, Jerry Jordan, and Stephen McLaughlan and mixed by James Guthrie. 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.
The album's original artwork features a chimpanzee a watching television in reference to Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The image on the TV is a gigantic eyeball staring at the viewer. 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." The album's title was inspired by Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death (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."). The album is organised loosely around the idea of an ape randomly switching channels on a television, 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 track, "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 samples are from BBC television's Everyman documentary, "A Game of Ghosts". The opening track also features the sound of several animals. 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. 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"). (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," which opens with the song of a Skylark, recalls the 1986 US air strike against Libya from the perspective of two "ordinary wives" and a young American F-111 pilot. The lyrics about "removing the jeans from the refrigerator" reference a 1988 Levi's 501 commercial. 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):
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. 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.
Waters stated in a Rockline interview on February 8, 1993, that he'd 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. 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. 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
|Drowned in Sound||8/10|
|Los Angeles Times|||
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.
AllMusic described the album as "a masterpiece in the sense that it brings together all of his obsessions in one grand, but not unwieldy, package". Record Collector wrote that the album shows Waters "at his most bleakly inspired since the cautionary parable of The Wall".
Less favourable was Los Angeles Times, writing "The result is blurred structure (partly improved by the moving old-soldier's tale Waters uses as a framing device), too much repetition and a certain distance and overintellectualization. [...] overall there's a dearth of the good old pop-rock appeal that always lifted the better Pink Floyd records." A negative review came from Chicago Tribune, writing "self-importance doesn't equal profundity, and the world's most mind-blowing engineering couldn`t cover up the deterioration of Waters' singing and melodic sense since his days with Floyd."
Waters told Classic Rock: "My view is that I've been involved in two absolutely classic albums – The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall [...] 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." On 19 September 2013, Waters told BBC HardTalk that Amused to Death has been completely underrated.
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. 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." In its review of the 2015 reissue, PopMatters wrote: "not only has Amused to Death aged well musically, it has unfortunately aged well thematically too. [...] Amused to Death was and still is a powerful statement from one of rock music’s most literate misanthropes. As time goes on, it gets harder and harder to believe that is slipped under everyone's radar so thoroughly." Drowned in Sound wrote: "Amused to Death stands up on its own as one of the better, more intriguing post-Floyd records".
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"
All songs written by Roger Waters.
|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|
|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|
|10.||"What God Wants, Part III"||4:08|
|13.||"It's a Miracle"||8:30|
|14.||"Amused to Death"||9:06|
- Roger Waters – vocals (all tracks except 1), bass guitar (tracks 2 and 13), synthesisers (tracks 2 and 4), guitar (tracks 5, 11 and 14)
- Patrick Leonard – keyboards (all tracks except 6 and 7), percussion programming (track 1), choir arrangement (tracks 2, 9-11 and 13), vocals (track 4), acoustic piano (tracks 11 and 13), Hammond organ (track 5), synthesisers (tracks 5 and 13)
- Jeff Beck – guitar (tracks 1, 2, 5 (2015 reissue only), 10-14)
- Randy Jackson – bass guitar (tracks 2 and 9)
- Graham Broad – drums (all tracks except 1, 5, 11 and 13), percussion (tracks 6 and 7)
- Luis Conte – percussion (all tracks except 2, 5, 9, 11, 13 and 14)
- Geoff Whitehorn – guitar (tracks 2, 8, 10 and 14)
- Andy Fairweather Low – guitar (tracks 2, 6-9, 11 and 12), vocals (tracks 6 and 7)
- Tim Pierce – guitar (tracks 2, 5, 9 and 12)
- B.J. Cole – guitar (tracks 3 and 4)
- Steve Lukather – guitar (tracks 3, 4 and 8)
- Rick DiFonso – guitar (tracks 3 and 4)
- Bruce Gaitsch – guitar (tracks 3 and 4)
- Jimmy Johnson – bass (all tracks except 1, 2, 5, 9 and 11)
- Brian Macleod – snare (tracks 3 and 4), hi-hat (tracks 3 and 4)
- John Pierce – saxophone (track 13)
- Denny Fongheiser – drums (track 5)
- Steve Sidwell – cornet (tracks 6 and 7)
- John Patitucci – bass guitar (track 11)
- Guo Yi & the Peking Brothers – dulcimer, lute, zhen, oboe, bass (track 11)
- John "Rabbit" Bundrick – Hammond organ (track 12)
- Jeff Porcaro – drums (track 13)
- Marv Albert – commentary (track 4)
- Katie Kissoon – vocals (tracks 2, 8, 9, 12 and 14)
- Doreen Chanter – vocals (tracks 2, 8, 9, 12 and 14)
- N'Dea Davenport – vocals (track 2)
- Natalie Jackson – vocals (tracks 2 and 5)
- P.P. Arnold – vocals (tracks 2, 3, 4 and 10)
- Lynn Fiddmont-Linsey – vocals (track 5)
- Jessica Leonard – vocals (track 8)
- Jordan Leonard – vocals (track 8)
- Don Henley – vocals (track 11)
- Jon Joyce – vocals (track 13)
- Stan Farber – vocals (track 13) (credited as Stan Laurel)
- Jim Haas – vocals (track 13)
- Rita Coolidge – vocals (track 14)
- Alf Razzell – speech (tracks 1 and 14)
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Amused to Death – Roger Waters | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- White 1992, p. 5
- Rose 2015, p. 254
- Rose 2015, p. 191
- "ATD - Neil Postman's Response". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- Rose 2015, p. 200
- Hanna, Emma (2009). The Great War on the Small Screen: Representing the First World War in Contemporary Britain. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748633906.
- "A Game of Ghosts". The Radio Times (3523). 1991-06-20. p. 50. ISSN 0033-8060. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
- "ATD Analysis". www.rogerwaters.org. Archived from the original on 21 February 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- [(Refrigerator) (1988) - YouTube "(Refrigerator) (1988)"] Check
|url=value (help). Retrieved 6 September 2017.
- Q magazine, November 1992,"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- "Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Shock Waves". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- Rock.co.za Archived 4 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- "The Kubrick FAQ Part 4". Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Caro, Mike (3 September 1992). "Amused to Death". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- Miller, Gavin (5 August 2015). "Album Review: Roger Waters – Amused to Death (Reissue) / Reviews / Reviews // Drowned in Sound". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- Sandow, Greg (11 September 1992). "Amused to Death Music Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- Boehm, Mike (13 September 1992). "Amused to Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- Gaar, Gillian G. (28 July 2015). "Waters: Amused to Death Reissue Review :: Music :: Reviews :: Roger Waters :: Paste". Paste. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
- Garratt, John (23 July 2015). "Roger Waters: Amused to Death (Take 1) | PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- Rathbone, Oregano. "Amused to Death – Record Collector Magazine". Record Collector. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- Maçek III, J.C. (August 11, 2015). "Amused to Death". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- BPI Certifications, British Phonographic Industry, archived from the original on 15 January 2013, retrieved 5 May 2010
- "BBC News Channel - HARDtalk, Roger Waters - Musician". BBC. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- BBC HARDtalk - Roger Waters - Musician (19/9/13). YouTube. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- "Roger Waters announces newly remixed version of Amused to Death". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- "ROGER WATERS". officialcharts.com. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- "Roger Waters". billboard.com. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- "Roger Waters". billboard.com. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- "Roger Waters". Dutch Charts. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- "Roger Waters". German Charts. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- Syndicated 1-hour radio special and transcript devoted to the album
- Alf Razzell interview on which the album draws, at the Imperial War Museum