Waxing Nostalgic: Roger Waters, “5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)”

Published on April 17th, 2013 in: Music, Waxing Nostalgic |

By Jeffery X Martin

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Here’s a bit of rock and roll heresy for you on this fine day. I don’t care a whit for Pink Floyd. I believe them to be overexposed, overplayed, and overrated. Their music is the background of every “classic rock” radio station, mostly because of people whose parents were fans, folks who still think it is astonishingly weird and semi-artsy to hear machinery noises and people speaking backwards on a musical record. I don’t think smoking pot has anything to do with it and you don’t need hallucinogens to be bored by Pink Floyd. We have been told for decades that the Floyd is an amazing band, one to be treasured, and we believed it. There must be something in our brains, some incredible desire to hear an open D note, staccato plucked, over and over and over again.

To hell with The Wall, to hell with Dark Side of the Moon, and to double hell with The Final Cut. I am reasonably sure I am not alone in this opinion. I’m also sure the comments section will let me know if I’m wrong.

Here comes the big “but.”

BUT . . . you let the band members run solo and you get some amazing stuff. When Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters released his first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, I bought it because there was a naked girl on the cover. I was 14 or 15. I would have bought a copy of The Book of Mormon if there had been a naked girl on the cover. That cover got censored and altered after considerable protests from feminist groups, so I was quite proud to show people the naked outlawed bum I was able to bring home from my local independent record store.

Hormones aside, I’ve always been a sucker for a good concept album. The Wall is everyone’s go-to for an example of the genre, but there were other better ones. The Who’s Tommy, for example, was a great concept album, as was Quadrophenia. Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade record ranks near the top, as does David Bowie’s No. 1 – Outside.

Waters based the album on a series of his own dreams. The album is a fascinating mashup of symbolism, a Freudian buffet and dessert bar of repressed sexual fantasies and fear of the unknown. Waters has never sounded so plaintive, poking about in his own headspace, filled with equal parts blues guitar and shrieking female back-up singers. Even if the album, as a whole, suffers from Waters’s typical overuse of idée fixe, it keeps the listener intrigued. The complaint can be made that the album ends too abruptly, like most dreams do.

If nothing else, the album, and this song, which is fairly indicative of the entire set, provides a glimpse into the mind of a performer loved by generations, a head full of wailing saxophones, middle-age neuroses, and a fantasy version of Anita Pallenberg. For a guy typically thought of as gloomy, morose, and rife with daddy issues, this music is pretty fun. It sure beats the shit out of setting your controls for the heart of the machine.

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