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From REG #13

Going Underground -
Roger Waters on Video

by Brian Pinkerton


You would have to be a fairly obsessed Roger Waters fan to collect audience-recorded videos of his live concerts. Most of those now in circulation are so many generations removed from the master tape that they're nearly incomprehensible. And many of the masters are shaky and distant to begin with. (Pretty understandable, given that they were recorded illegally and in secrecy.)

Part of the problem is that Rog has never released official videos of his outstanding Pros and Cons and K.A.O.S. tours, making bootlegs the only option for collectible-hungry fans. And when you're a Rog fanatic like me, you make do with what you can get. (I consider Roger Waters our greatest living composer - now that Lennon and Zappa are dead.)

For the uninitiated, concert video bootlegs are commonly found at record-collector fairs and through "live video" catalogue ads in the back of music-collectible publications like Goldmine and DISCoveries. What follows is a summary of my own collection to let you know what's out here. Remember, the dub quality of what I own is irrelevant - you might find better, or, quite possibly, worse.

"Pros and Cons of HitchHiking" Concerts

This is the tour that placed Roger Waters and Eric Clapton on the same stage, as Clapton briefly became a member of Roger's solo band. The first half of each show featured Pink Floyd material from '67 to '83, while the second portion covered "Pros and Cons..." all the way through, with a few minor bits of music and song extensions not found on the album.

The Pros and Cons suite worked better live than on LP, thanks to a high-energy performance and the memorable bedroom set and triple-screen films. (Who can forget the cartoon adventures of Reg, Gerald Scarfe's deranged Snoopy mutation?)

Toronto 7/31/84

Poor sound and very few shots of the screen make this video a big disappointment. Thanks to a zoom lens, we do get close to the stage, with good (but blurred) shots of the band. The camera operator seems to be sitting in the upper right side of the audience. This one's a complete show, including the "Brain Damage/Eclipse" encore. Severe tracking problems wreck the "Pros and Cons..." suite's title track.

Montreal 7/31/84

This view comes from the back of the auditorium, with a zoom to help find the band. What I like about this one is that we get a decent (although partially obstructed) look at the screen activity. The projected images really brought back memories of the show. The kinetic slot-machine effects during "Running Shoes," still pack a visual punch, even on dim VHS.

Overall, the focus is soft and smeared (Roger's white t-shirt looks like a fuzzy sweater), but the sound is pretty good, muffled only at the loudest moments. There's a nice shot of that ridiculous German beer-hall puppet character that pops up during "Arabs with Knives and West German Skies." The show is complete with encore, although a strange edit during "Brain Damage" seems to merge two videos of this show.

Los Angeles 4/4/85

The existence of this one caught me by surprise. And in a nice color box, too! The praise ends there, however. My copy is a distant relative of the original, barely watchable with poor sound. Still, I would recommend an early generation copy if you can find one. You get a good, close view of the band from the right side of the audience. Even though Clapton had left the tour by now, the performance is superb. The crowd is very excitable. (I'll bet Rog loved the firecrackers during the hushed moments of "Gunners Dream.") [not.] Some unintentional humor arises during the "Pros and Cons" title track, when the spotlight hits sax player Mel Colins lying on his back. He's supposed to be blasting a solo from that position, but tonight the mike doesn't work, leaving the audience to wonder what they're watching.

The camera's too close to get any worthwhile screen shots, which is a big drawback, and the tape ends during the final seconds of the second half, missing the encore. Due to the horrid condition of my copy, I doubt I'll view it again. (Still, it sure beats sitting through "Delicate Sound of Thunder"!)

Other 1984-1985 Concert Videos

Also known to exist: 7/21/84 E. Rutherford, New Jersey; 7/28/84 Toronto; 3/21/85 Buffalo, New York.

Compilations

In addition to audience recordings of live concerts, several compilation tapes are circulating that include legitimate footage from T.V., promo films, B-roll, and other "pro" sources. Here's what you may find:

Roger Waters 1984-1991

Some tasty morsels on this tape:

  1. A 1984 French TV interview conducted by the ever-fawning Jim Ladd. This was the premiere of a new show that aimed to be a video version of Ladd's "Innerview" radio program. Throughout the 45 minute interview, Rog is quite relaxed and smiling, although he does find time to rip Ronald Reagan and The Wall movie director Alan Parker ("...a filthy little swine.")

    Interspersed with the interview, we get to see a wide range of clips from Roger's career, including Dark Side of the Moon and Welcome to the Machine concert backdrop films, Final Cut and Pros and Cons promos, and The Wall movie. The overall video quality is fairly grainy.

  2. A 12-minute CBS promo documentary to hype Roger's 1984 tour. I believe this was shown on MTV in July of that year. It's an excellent overview, with Roger talking about his career and latest effort over loads of clips. Great quality.

  3. The 1991 Guitar Legends Live concert from Seville, Spain, taken from a TV broadcast. Roger performs "In the Flesh" and "Comfortably Numb." The band plays in a dramatic, dungeon-like set with flames.

    For "In the Flesh," Rog makes a grand entrance and paces a catwalk above the band with the hammers logo projected behind him. At this point in his career, his voice is pretty hoarse - no doubt from all those performances of "Careful With That Axe Eugene" in the early '70s.

    "Comfortably Numb" is delivered Berlin Wall/ Van Morrison-style with a short disappointing guitar solo that begs for David Gilmour to step in.

    Quality is excellent. Too bad the other numbers Rog performed at this event - "What God Wants," "Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2" and "Brain Damage/Eclipse" - aren't included.

  4. Two minutes of Rog and Andy Fairweather Low performing the Beatles' "Across the Universe" against a psychedelic backdrop for a 12/6/85 BBC-TV John Lennon tribute. Quality is fuzzy, and the tune gets cut off in the middle.

  5. A 6/21/84 un-aired MTV interview with Nina Blackwood, focused on the Pros and Cons tour and conducted prior to an Earls Court gig. This is the complete, unedited interview and runs a generous 22 minutes. A jittery, crummy-quality dupe, but certainly interesting.

  6. An enjoyable, seven-minute Canadian TV interview from 1984 in fair quality with familiar clips.

  7. The three "Pros and Cons of HitchHiking" promo videos. "Sexual Revolution" is really dull and repetitive, using some of the most uninteresting backdrop film clips from the tour. Quality is hissy and dark, and it's mislabeled "Every Strangers Eyes."

    Then comes the title track in better quality. I had forgotten what a good video this is - stylish and witty, with clever integration of clips from the movie Shane.

    The final video is "Every Strangers Eyes," humorously mislabeled as Every Stranger's Eye. Rog sings with the right side of his face erased in shadows. (He must like doing this; in the "Final Cut" promo video, the top half of his face is in the dark.) This promo is in great shape, using footage from the tour backdrop films - the diner, the trucker, and some nifty aerial camera work. It's a deeply moving song and a tiny gem of a video, which received little if any MTV play. It'll never be officially released, so catch it on a bootleg!

Pros and Cons of HitchHiking

This compilation comes in a gorgeous color box with a montage of Pros and cons tour photos and Reg cartoons. The overall quality, however, sucks from being a dub of a dub, of a dub, etc.

The contents:

  1. A brief excerpt from the CBS promo documentary mentioned previously.

  2. The tape's highlight: About 35 minutes of pro-shot, 1984 tour rehearsal footage from New York, with some great close-ups of Rog and Clapton. We get most of "Money" and excerpts from the "Pros and Cons" suite, including close-ups of screen activity (the sexy model from the LP cover disrobes!) and Clapton's "Sexual Revolution" guitar solo.

  3. While the sound quality is pretty good, the visuals are often dark and murky, and the performance is bland. A time-code appears throughout.

  4. An excerpt from the 1984 Jim Ladd interview (see above) in horrific quality.

  5. A six minute BBC documentary from May '84 featuring interviews with the Pros and Cons tour's production team, including cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. Despite the bad quality, this is interesting stuff, describing the great challenge in pulling off the synchronized film effects. Many portions of this documentary appear in the CBS promo piece.

  6. The "Pros and Cons" promo video in bad condition.

  7. "Across the Universe" (mentioned above) in fair shape, which again seems to end prematurely.

Roger Waters Video Anthology

This is a new one, compiled by true Floyd fans, and probably the best of the bunch. A good selection of clips, most of them in better quality than found elsewhere. Packaged in a nice color box, too. The Contents:

  1. The three Pros and Cons promo videos (described above) with decent picture quality, although hissy soundtracks.

  2. The '84 New York Pros and Cons tour rehearsal footage (described above) in fairly good shape, but dark.

  3. "Across the Universe" (mentioned earlier) in decent shape, with the abrupt ending. (Apparently, this is how it was broadcast.)

  4. From 8/87 in London: very good quality Radio KAOS tour rehearsal footage. Great pro camera work of the band rehearsing on a plain indoor stage with no audience. Rog wears dark sunglasses for reasons only he can fathom. The cameraman is crawling all over the stage, getting lots of close-ups of the band members for b-roll purposes. The music: "Sunset Strip," the dreadful "Radio Waves," a portion of "Another Brick...," and a tiny piece of "Not Now John."

  5. Jim Ladd summarizing the Radio KAOS album for a free-lance interviewer on August 13, 1987, at Providence, Rhode Island, Civic Center.

  6. Close, pro camera work of the 8/13/87 Radio KAOS dress rehearsal before a small but happy crowd. The clips include Ladd's intro., "Money," "Sunset Strip," and "Another Brick...". Very good picture quality - the best I've seen of this stuff.

  7. In excellent condition, the rare "Another Brick in the Wall," (Bleeding Hearts Band version) 1990 promo video, filmed prior to the Berlin concert. It begins with a helicopter's view of the stage at night, shining spotlights on the wall. Then Rog performs in front of his beloved barbed-wire wall while words appear on it (ROGER WATERS... DISASTER RELIEF... HELP... etc.). This is interspersed with stock footage of World War II fighting, and famine victims. The video includes a rolling text plea for contributions to the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief.

  8. The 11/17/91 Guitar Legends show from Seville, Spain. While the quality of the footage isn't as superb as in the "1984-1991" compilation previously mentioned, it is still very, very good, and more importantly, add the songs that the other tape doesn't have: "Another Brick...," "Brain Damage/Eclipse," and "Monkey Television" ("What God Wants").

    The latter is the only concert performance ever of material from Amused To Death, the best album of the decade. Roger introduces the song as: "...a work in progress about a monkey watching television. We don't have any props, we don't have a monkey, and we don't have a television set. So you can be the monkey and we'll be the television!".

    An excellent, rousing performance follows, and the song ends with a reprise of the tune's ominous intro., (unlike the album). "WHAT GOD WANTS GOD GETS," appears in big letters behind the band.

  9. The 1992 Sony "Three Wishes" promo video, which never got aired anywhere, to the best of my knowledge. It's not bad, although, none of Roger's promo videos comes close to matching the skill and complexity of his music. Peter Boyle (of Young Frankenstein fame) plays the genie who visits Rog at a rural diner. But Rog is more interested in the beautiful blonde that drives up in a red convertible. He fantasizes about smooching with her. Then she's gone. Near excellent dub quality.

Radio KAOS

This tape contains two rehearsals and two interviews, providing a great souvenir of the KAOS tour. My copy has terrible generation loss.

  1. The 8/87 rehearsal material mentioned before, but expanded to include extra takes of "Sunset Strip," "Radio Waves," and "Another Brick...," as well as a minute or so of a blues jam.

  2. A 19 minute backstage interview with Roger from the same day. Rog is very jovial, often teasing the interviewer and generally avoiding explaining his Radio KAOS concept: "I cannot explain the record on television. It'll sound crazed." The interviewer makes the remarkable comment: "The music on this LP seems extremely danceable."

  3. A longer (six-minute) version of the 8/13/87 Jim Ladd interview, than appears on the "Anthology" compilation.

  4. The 8/13/87 Providence, R.I. dress rehearsal with more material than the "Anthology" compilation, including quick snippets of other songs and some goofy audience shots. Don't miss the ugly, drunken nerd who passionately lip-synchs to "Pigs"! Another treat: really embarrassing intermission prattle between Ladd and local DJ's.
Next time: Radio K.A.O.S. and Berlin Wall underground videos.



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