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Amused To Death

“Who Is Alf Razzel?”

The voice in ATD of somebody trying to rescue a comrade are those of Alf Razzell, a WWI veteran. Here’s a (small) bit of background to his story (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 cavities, faces blown off, limbs blown off and half the time he was walking through 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 don’t they do that before the war instead?

“What’s the backwards message in Perfect Sense?”

It’s really (REALLY) difficult to decipher, so it’s impossible to be 100% certain about all the words. But having said that, here’s something that at least conveys the basic point, from the ATD Transcript:

Julia, (pause) however, (pause – 2nd thunder in normal direction) In the light and visions of the issues of Stanley, (pause) we 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. [very loud, noisy, screamed sentence]

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 song book]:

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’s the Arabic chanting in Late Home Tonight?”

[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:

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

“And in Tripoli, another ordinary wife [….] in the street below”
a woman is shouting in the background in Egyptian Arabic. Apparently she is complaining to her husband and blaming him for her sufferings. Her words run as follows: “…. And then what!!!! why don’t you ever help me? you all the time leave me alone at home 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…”

Then the beating drums start, and here everything 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 what I could get:
“…is Great;…is 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.
At the end of the beating drums, right before the missile explosion, the voice of the TV commentator becomes more clear, and he says the following:

“…his days are rarely spent at home… as 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?)… BBBBBOOOOOOOOUUUUMMMMMMM”
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 Libyan Arabic as it was meant to be; since this song is supposed to be about the bombing of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

“What’s the deal with Andrew Lloyd Webber?”

[With much help from Adam Floro:] In general, he just doesn’t like ALW’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, Echoesians have pointed out that such a chromatic pattern is fairly common; by no means a Floyd invention. However, the relevant dates make the charge of plagiarism at least possible, if not really likely — Webber first used the riff in question on the film “Gumshoe,” released in December 1971. _Meddle_ was released on 11 November, 1971, with the live debut of “Echoes” having occurred on April 22.

“What’s Amused To Death based on?”

Television. Specifically, a book by Neil Postman, called “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.”

It’s 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)

The book is about television, and its affects on (American) society. Postman is a culture pessimist, and his view on TV aren’t too optimistic, but well-founded.

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