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Amused To Death Trivia

Who were Alf Razzell and Bill Hubbard?

The voices in Amused to Death of somebody trying to rescue a comrade are those of Alf Razzell, a WWI veteran. Here's a (small) bit of background to his stroy (apparently from the same TV special from which Waters took the sound bites):

Alf Razzell had the job of collecting the dead soldier's pocket-books, whatever they are, (some kind of ID thing I expect) and usually the corpse had to be rolled over to get it out of the top pocket. You would then see why the man had died. There were guys with empty brain cavaties, faces blown off, limbs blown off, and half the time the collector was walking through the intestines of dead men.

The Germans picked up Alf and took him to the trenches where he found Bill. The Germans would not help at all. Bill had a large hole in his back exposing his intestines and it was dirty with oil, chalk, and all kind of shit from the trenches. The Germans wanted Alf to take him back and to be quick about it, but due to the injuries, Bill couldn't stand it and with the Germans getting impatient and abusive, he decided that he would have to leave him behind. Bummer.

Its not all that gory. Alf looks in pretty good condition for a 90 odd year old. He reckons war is completely unnecessary. At the end of any war, everyone sits around a table and comes to some agreement. Why dont' they do that before the war instead?

What's the backwards message in 'Perfect Sense' say?

There are several interpretations. Here are a few:

From the Echoes Pink Floyd Frequently Asked Questions:

In the normal direction, the following reversed message ends just before the lyric "The monkey sat on a pile of stone" begins.

For whatever it's worth, the last faint utterance just before the lyrics begin is the word "Julia" in reverse. In the phrase "we have decided TO INCLUDE a backwards message," it sounds like a woman's voice is mixed in for the words "to include." Her voice can be heard (as gibberish, or course) in the normal direction. Also, the word book could be gook, as suggestion by other transcriptions of this message. It rhymes wiht nuke, but after careful listening it sounds more like it begins with a B sound. And book makes more sense.

Julia, (pause) however (pause - 2nd thunder in normal direction), in the light and visions of the issues of Stanley, (pause) we have changed our minds. (pause) We have decided to include a backward message. (pause - 1st thunder in normal direction) Stanley, (pause) for you, (pause) and for all the other book (short pause) partners.

At this point there is a descending-pitch rant that appears at the beginning of the track. In the normal direction it is, or course, a rising-pitch rant. In either direction, at both normal and slowed playback speeds, it was not clear to this transcriber what was being shouted. In fact, in the normal direction, it sounds vaguely more intelligible as "It's just what I said (?) (? alright! ?). Perhaps it is an attempt at shouting in reverse in an attempt to create a reversed-sounding message.

The story goes like this. Waters had asked Stanley Kubrick if he could use the "breathing sounds" from his "2001: A Space Odyssey" film on the album. Mr. Kubrick refused. So Waters dubbed in his own breathing effects, and recorded a nasty message for Kubrick's benefit.

And here is another translation from an unknown source:

It's really (REALLY) difficult to decipher. I've managed to sample this thing into my computer (but with some distortion since I was connecting a line out into a microphone in, but that's another story). [if anyone's got a good 44.1kHz stereo 16-bit sample, I'd love to see it!] Anyway, here's what I've been able to decipher, so far [along with further information from Piet de Bondt]:

Julie [pause] however [pause] in the light and visions of the [very soft] issues of sterling [pause], we have changed our minds. We have decided to include a backward message [pause] Stanley [pause] for you [pause] and all the other [dramatic pause] geek partners. [pause] [very loud, noisy, screamed sentence] [end of song (well, actually the beginning, but we're backwards, now, remember?)]

The story goes like this: Waters had asked Stanley Kubrick if he could use some lines and "breathing effects" from his "2001: A Space Odyssey" film on the album. Specifically, Waters wanted to include the part about HAL's shutdown [from the ATD songbook]:

HAL: Dave, my mind is going...I can feel it...I can feel it...My mind is going...There is no question about it...I can feel it...I can feel it...I can feel it...I'm afraid...

Mr. Kubrick refused. So Waters dubbed in his own breathing effects, and recorded a nasty message for Kubrick's benefit. Heaven only knows if he's heard it, or more importantly, if he cares.

What do the Arabic words in 'Late Home Tonight' mean?

[translation courtesy of Fady Alajaji:]

Some of the phrases were really hard to grasp because they were being spoken very quickly in the background of the high tempo beating drums. Anyway, I tried my best and here is the translation (although not very accurate) of what I could grasp.

  1. At the end of the song, while Roger is singing the following:

    "And in Tripoli, another ordinary the street below"

    A woman is shouting in the background in egyptian arabic. Apparently she is complaining to her husband and blaiming him for her sufferings. Here words run as follows:

    "....And then what! Why don't you ever help me? You leave me at home all the time and go join your fat friends in your endless useless discussions..."

    "I work for you and your family from dawn to dusk, and you don't give a damn!"

    "I badly need to rest, I just wish the devil's angel will soon come and take me with him!"

  2. Then the beating drums start, and here everthing is very chaotic. There are different voices in the background. I was able to distinguish a TV (or radio) commentator talking (but I can't get what he's saying) and at the same time there is a crowd shouting slogans in arabic. I could not grasp all their words. This is what I could get:

    " great; God is great...."
    "Death, Death, death to the ... (imperialists?)..."

    I am not sure if the last word is "imperialists." Anyway, you get the meaning. I think it's kind of a demonstration of fundamentalist muslims. However, I'm not really sure.

  3. At the end of the beating drums, right before the missle explosion, the voice of the TV commentator becomes more clear, and he says the following:

    "....his days are rarely spent at for her, she stays alone, she stays alone at home... while all the men are out gathered at the square, she's left to loneliness and (oblivion?) ......."

That's it folks. I want to point out that this translation is not completely accurate, and it's not completely word by word. Arabic cannot be translated word by word into English because it won't make any sense. However, overall I think the translation is 90% accurate.

By the way, I think Roger got these arabic phrases from an Egyptian movie and mixed them into his song. I am certain the Arabic is Egyptian Arabic and not Lybian Arabic as it was meant to be; since this song is supposed to be about the bombing of the Lybian capital, Tripoli.

Why does Waters hate Andrew Lloyd Webber?

In general, he just doesn't like Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, and doesn't mind saying so.

But specifically, there's a section of Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" that bears a marked similarity to a part of "Echoes." The opening notes to the "Overture" of Phantom (Track 2, Disc 1) are C# C B Bb A C#. This matches rather closely a section of "Echoes," approximately 6:06 to 6:16.

While Waters was less than pleased with this similarity, it has been pointed out that such a chromatic pattern is fairly common; by no means a Floyd invention.

What does the title 'Amused to Death' refer to?

Television. Specifically, a book by Neil Postman, called "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business." It's apparently a very well-received book, and worth reading. Publishing information, for anyone interested: (cloth: New York: Viking, 1985; ISBN: 0670804541) (paper: New York: Penguin, 1986; ISBN: 0140094385)

What Was Neil Postman's response to Roger Waters' album "Amused to Death"?

To my knowledge, Neil Postman has never given an official statement on what he thinks of Amused to Death, but in his book, "The End of Education", he does directly refer to Roger Waters and Amused to Death. The following is taken out of a chapter concering museums and the appreciate of classical art forms:

There are, as we know, different levels of sensibility. In the case of music, for example, most American students are well tuned to respond with feeling, critical intelligence, and considerable attention to forms of popular music, but are not prepared to feel or even experience the music of Haydn, Bach, or Mozart; that is to say, their hearts are closed, or partially closed, to the canon of Western music. I am not about to launch into a screed against rock, metal, rap, and other forms of teenage music. In fact, readers should know that 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. Nor do I have the inclination for any other reason. Nonetheless, the level of sensibility required to appreciate the music of Roger Waters is both different and lower than what is required to appreciate, let us say, a Chopin tude.

Where are the Simian Distress Screams taken from?

The following is from Brandon Jamison concerning the Simian Distress Screams found at the beginning of "What God Wants, Part I":

You'll notice that these sounds are borne from the sound of muffled explosion sound, a bang. I think these sounds are taken from the movie "Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan." In the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, a shipwrecked husband, wife, and infant have set up crude living quarters on an island. The apes get into their home and discover a gun. In examining the piece, they inadvertently shoot it, and react with these violent sounds. I think that is where this this sound is from.

General Trivia:

What is meant by the lyrics:

"Each man has his price Bob
and yours was pretty low"

Many people originally thought that this was in reference to Bob Ezrin, who was originally contracted to produce "Radio KAOS," but instead saw a brighter fortune producing Pink Floyd's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" for more money.

Waters explains however how those lyrics came about..."When we recorded the album I would sometimes rehearse vocal takes by impersonating Bob Dylan. That line originally read 'Each man has his price my friends...' so make of that what you will. As a joke I sung Bob instead, and Pat insisted that we leave it in. So although it was unintentional, I'm happy that it's there for Bob Ezrin. I hope he appreciates it."

What is meant by the Lyrics:

"And we all like the bit when you take
The jeans from the refridgerator and
Then the bad guy gets hit"

This is a combination reference. The Jeans from the refrigerator is based on a television advertisement. And the Bad Guy gets hit, is a general reference to various television programs IE. police shows, and westerns, where the good guys always win the day.

What is "Semtex" ?

It is an 'inexpensive' plastic explosive originally invented in Czechoslovakia.

In the printed lyrics for "What God Wants, Part I", some versions of ATD have "The alien prophet cried" written, but; "prophet cried" is what's sung.

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