So is the world really in Chaos ?
With terrorists scattered around the globe and countries being led by hard nosed leaders or tyrants has the world regressed since the 1980s thaw ? Many artists have written great music with chaotic situations as inspiration so today I’m going to mention just one of my favourites. Radio KAOS is a 1987 solo album by Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters,which was dubbed by record company executives as too dour and miserable prior to release, that Waters had to add an extra track,the encouraging “The Tide is Turning (after Live Aid)”.
Radio K.A.O.S. is the second studio solo album by British rock musician and former Pink Floyd member Waters. Released on 15 June 1987 in the United Kingdom, it was Waters’ first album after his split from Pink Floyd in 1985.
Like his previous and future studio albums and many works of his during his time with Pink Floyd, this is a concept album. The album is based on a number of key factors of politics in the late 1980s including monetarism and its effect on citizens, popular culture of the time, and the events and consequences of the Cold War. It also makes criticisms of Margaret Thatcher’s government, much like Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, another album conceived by Waters.
The album follows Billy, a mentally and physically disabled man from Wales, who is forced to live with his uncle David in Los Angeles after his brother Benny was sent to prison after protesting against the government, following his dismissal from his job in mining due to “market forces”. The album explores Billy’s mind and view on the world through an on-air conversation between him and Jim, a DJ at a local fictitious radio station named Radio K.A.O.S.
Internationally, the album only charted in two countries, peaking at number 25 in the United Kingdom and number 50 in the United States. The album spawned four singles in 1987. “Radio Waves” was released as the lead single from the album, charting at number 74 in the UK, as well as #12 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks in the U.S., “Sunset Strip” charted at number 15 on the Rock Tracks chart, “The Tide Is Turning” charted at number 54 in the UK, and “Who Needs Information”, which failed to chart. Waters also made a Video EP for this album featuring the songs “Radio Waves,” “Sunset Strip,” “Fish Report,” “Four Minutes,” and “The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid).”
In 1979 Waters met Jim Ladd for a radio documentary on The Wall album. It was the beginning of a friendship which remains today. Jim Ladd was an inspiration as he brought some light into Waters’s dim view of L.A. life, initially through listening to the bizarre Fish Report from KMET. Waters became increasingly interested in Ladd’s plight with his radio station KMET, and his eventual sacking to change the programming format of the station in search of market researched profits. In 1985, Waters wrote a song called “Get Back To Radio,” which seemed to be partly based on the experiences of Ladd, and partly from childhood memories – Waters fondly remembers listening to Radio Luxembourg well into the night as a child.
An event from the 1985 miners’ strike in Britain where a striking worker threw a concrete block off a motorway bridge, killing a taxi driver who was taking a working miner to his job, seemed to register in Waters’s subconscious, emerging in the second song written, “Who Needs Information” and later, “Me or Him”. With this example of how far people will go to pursue their monetary goals, Waters began to formulate the ideas for his first full solo album since leaving Pink Floyd. The album, with a working title of Home, took only three months to record, developed from 16 songs throughout 1986 and was worked into a now familiar Waters concept album.
The popular culture of Los Angeles and the radio industry in the area at the time was the inspiration for the fictional Radio K.A.O.S. station that plays a significant role in the album. Billy is a 23-year-old Welshman from the South Wales Valleys. He is mentally and physically disabled, confined to a wheelchair and only able to work his upper body. Though he is conceived as mentally challenged, his disability has actually made him not only a genius, but also superhuman, as he also has the ability to literally hear radio waves throughout all frequencies without aid. Billy was living with his twin brother Benny, who was a coal miner, wife Molly, and their children. Unfortunately, Benny has lost his job in the mines due to the “market forces”. One night, Benny and Billy are out on a pub crawl when they pass a shop full of TV screens broadcasting Margaret Thatcher’s “mocking condescension”. Benny vents his anger on this shop and steals a cordless phone. Next, in theatrical fashion, Benny poses on a footbridge in protest to the closures; the same night, a taxi driver is killed by a concrete block dropped from a similar bridge (“Who Needs Information” – track 2). The police question Benny, who hides the phone in Billy’s wheelchair.
Benny is taken to prison, and Molly, unable to cope, sends Billy to live with his uncle David in Los Angeles, California, United States. Since Billy can hear radio waves in his head (“Radio Waves” – track 1), he begins to explore the cordless phone, recognising its similarity to a radio. He experiments with the phone and is able to access computers and speech synthesisers, and learns to speak through them. He calls a radio station in L.A. named Radio KAOS and tells them of his life story about his brother being in jail (“Me or Him” – track 3), about his sister-in-law not being able to cope and sending him to L.A. to live with his uncle Dave (“Sunset Strip” – track 5), and about the closures of the mines (“Powers That Be” – track 4).
Billy eventually hacks into a military satellite and fools the world into thinking nuclear ICBMs are about to be detonated at major cities all over the world while deactivating the military’s power to retaliate (“Home” – track 6, and “Four Minutes” – track 7). The album concludes with a song about how everyone, in thinking they were about to die, realises that the fear and competitiveness peddled by the mass media is much less important than their love for family and the larger community. (“The Tide Is Turning” – track 8).
Waters dedicated the album “to all those who find themselves at the violent end of monetarism.”