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From REG Issue #21

The Big Red Button
or
The Pros and Cons
of Communication

by Marc Mölders


When I was sixteen, I wrote a letter for the Mr. Waters Neighborhood column in REG. I started the letter in the following way: "Dear Roger, As I feel so familiar with you, I hope I am allowed to call you Roger, instead of Mr. Waters." Why did and do I feel so familiar with Roger Waters? Maybe I just reached for the secret to soon, although, I have never cried at the moon.

The secret of all Mr. Waters' lyrics is that they are not only literally brilliant, but that they are personally emotion provoking for both Roger and his fans as well. Even the best philosophers explain their theories with the help of examples, so I think I will present this article in this way also.

The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking is an extremely lyrical piece, and has become one of my all time favorite works of music. Although Pros and Cons never achieved the popularity or notoriety I believe it deserved, the lyrics, both individually in songs, or as a total concept piece, are simply fantastic.

The main reason why Pink Floyd became so popular was not just because the composition and the instrumentation of the music was so great. It was the lyrics that enhanced the genius and originality of the composition and instrumentation that made the music so great. Roger has not only been able to write fantastic original music, but he has been able to write lyrics such that Pink Floyd, and Roger Waters' fans can emotionally feel the music because they can relate to the lyrics.

My favorite song on Pros and Cons is "4:50 AM (Go Fishing)." My decision regarding my favorite was not an easy one, but I chose it for several reasons. Mainly, from a literary aspect, it seems to be the central piece of the Pro's and Cons of HitchHiking concept, as most of the story line leads up to this song at the center of the theme, and the central plot of the concept.

4:50 AM (Go Fishing)

As cars go by I cast my mind's eye
Over back packs on roof racks
Beyond the horizon
Where dream makers
Working white plastic processors
Invite the unwary
To reach for the pie in the sky
Go fishing my boy!

We set out in the spring
With a trunk full of books about everything
About solar devices
And how nice natural childbirth is
We cut down some trees
And we trailed our ideals
Through the forest glade
We dammed up the stream

And the kids cooled their heels
In the fishing pool we'd made
We held hands and we exchanged bands
And we practically lived off the land
You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody's coat
You fed him by hand
And then snuggled snuggled him down
By the grandfather bed while I wrote
We grew our own maize
And I only occasionally went into town
To stock up on antibiotics
And shells for the shotgun that I kept around
I told the kids stories while you worked your loom
And the sun went down sooner each day.

(*Chapter six in which Eeyore has a birthday
And gets two presents
Daddy...come on dad
Eeyore the old grey donkey stood by the side
Of the stream and he looked at himself in the water
"Pathetic" he said, "That's what it is"
"Good morning Eeyore" said Pooh
"Oh" said Pooh, He thought for a long time)

The leaves all fell down
Our crops all turned brown
It was over
As the first snowflakes fell
I realized all was not well in the camp
The kids caught bronchitis
The space heater ran out of diesel
One weekend a friend from the East
Rot his soul
Stole your heart
I said "Fuck it then
Take the kids back to town
Maybe I'll see you around"

And so...leaving all our hopes and dreams
To the wind and the rain
Taking only our stash
Left our litter and trash
And set out on the road again
On the road again


(Bye Bye Daddy, Bye Daddy)
(You can bring Pearl she's a darn nice girl)
(But don't bring Liza)

But what about the relationship and personal involvement of the listener? One can read the lyrics of the song from a literal point of view and perspective and obtain a certain meaning about the story. Or you can derive a more evocative emotional response.

The stage is set in Montana, the local, a camp, which is very nicely described and defined in detail. In the beginning the scene creates a very warm atmosphere, which obviously changes into a cold one (The leaves all fell down...). A cold season in a generally a warm climate of family bliss. A cold phase in a generally warm atmosphere of raising children and a struggle for self sufficiency. With this change in the lyrics, the music, and Roger's voice, change as well, becoming depressed, then ominous and angry. The listener is involved now and can physically feel the lyrics.

Roger always leaves empty spaces for the listener's own interpretations and thoughts. And at this juncture of the song, such is the case. What do we do when all the leaves fall down and all our crops have turned brown Roger seems to emotionally be asking? Can we relate? Can we feel the same pain? Roger's lyrics are written such that it seems as though he wants to know how we feel and how we might react in similar situations or life crisis's. Because the listener can often relate emotionally to his lyrics, Roger seems to create or establish a kind of bond or communication between himself, the story, and the listener by baring his own feelings through his lyrics and vocals. This is one reason why I adore Roger's genius so much.

The protagonist is portrayed as an interloper who leaves his litter and trash, destroying the family in the process before setting out on the road again. We can understand what Roger means as he describes his protagonists and in his anger suggests aggressive retaliation. ("Get em up against the wall"). We know because we can relate to the anger, that in reality Roger does not suggest that he nor the listener resolve his problems in this way. But we can feel the anger, the hurt and the pain, relating the experience of Reg in the story perhaps to similar experiences of our own. And this relationship is truly the real art of communication.

Most of us have never met Roger, nor has Roger met most of his fans. But nevertheless, we feel we know and understand the other. We can learn from him and his experiences as he can learn from us and ours. The communication flows both ways emitted by emotional and empathic perception, at concerts, in person, via letter and other forms of connectivity. Human beings perceive emotion in others, and in kind relate to that empathicly and from experience.

Many of us know about the relationship between Billy and Jim from the story of Radio KAOS. We know as well of the central theme of the Big Red Button and the potential nuclear holocaust which would change the world if the powers that be had there way. Matt Johnson, from The The, wrote a song called "Lonely Planet." This song features the following lyric: "If you can't change the world - change yourself. And if you can't change yourself - change the world."

Roger gives us a kind of pros and cons of communication via his writing and our emotional relationship to it. He is able change the world by potentially influencing or increasing the awareness of his listeners. In effect he is able to press the big red button because he forces the listener to think, to think about themselves and to think about the world. He leaves us empty spaces in his lyric allowing us to interpret his meanings for ourselves. And because of this he lets us know that we are not helpless and ineffectual, that we can also press the big red button, we can also change the world.

To make us think and to leave empty spaces for us to interpret is not the least component of a fanclub like REG. None of us is THE Roger Waters fan. He himself is his biggest fan for he creates with his genius first for himself. I am my biggest fan and I hope you are yours.

This is what I have learned. And this is invaluable knowledge. Because if I have confidence in myself, and love and understanding for others I need not change myself but can strive to affect those around me and thereby change the world. If however, we deem the world unchangeable, we may only have Four Minutes left to change ourselves.




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