1984 was a strange time for Roger Waters. Things were drawing to a swift and bitter close for him in prog-rock legends Pink Floyd, and duly, he was starting to make his first foray into the world of music as a solo artist. Preceding his departure from the band in 1985, Waters released his debut solo opus, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, in April 1984.
Interestingly, Waters had been frustrated within Pink Floyd for years up until that point and originally conceived the record in 1978, at the same time he penned The Wall, and both were offered to his Pink Floyd bandmates. However, they chose The Wall, and so Pros and Cons was put on the back burner until a more suitable date, which came in 1984 as he was gearing up to quit the band.
“I made demo tapes of them both, and in fact presented both demo tapes to the rest of the Floyd, and said, ‘Look, I’m going to do one of these as a solo project and we’ll do one as a band album, and you can choose,'” Waters explained to The Source in 1984. “So, this was the one that was left over. Um… I mean, it’s developed an awful lot since then, I think”.
Wanting to hit the same heights as in Pink Floyd, Waters enlisted an all-star band to record and tour the record, which included ‘Slowhand’ himself, Eric Clapton, taking up guitar duties. This was the first time Waters had played live since The Wall tour ended with Pink Floyd in 1981.
The tour started in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 16th, and included a nine-show European run that hit major cities such as London, Paris and Rotterdam. Afterwards, the band played only ten shows in North America, including in New Jersey and Montreal.
Unfortunately for Waters, ticket sales were dwindling, and reviews of the albums and shows weren’t the kindest. Afterwards, Waters claimed that the tour had haemorrhaged money and cost him nearly half a million dollars. The tour commenced its second leg in 1985, and Clapton was replaced by Jay Stapley.
Across the tour in 1984, Waters and his band performed a host of Pink Floyd classics from their most iconic albums, including The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, and even played ‘The Gunner’s Dream’ from 1982’s The Final Cut. Then, clearly, because the bitter way he had left Pink Floyd was still fresh, the second tour of Pros and Cons was performed in full. For this segment, fans were dazzled by visuals from Nicolas Roeg and Gerald Scarfe.
Many critics trashed Waters’ solo effort, labelling it very average and too drawn out. Jim Sullivan of the Boston Globe even went as far as to say that the album was “a colossal failure” and a “static bore”. Adding to this damning critique, the band, including Waters, were criticised for looking disinterested whilst performing, regardless of their eminent status as musicians. One posited that Clapton looked “positively bored”.
Despite this, for longtime fans of Waters’ solo work, Pros and Cons remains lauded as a masterpiece. Even today, many claim that the record is the finest of his solo efforts, showering heaps of praise on Clapton‘s guitar work, which helped to bring the complex musical and thematic ideas of Waters to life. It was a convergence of musical stars that no one expected, and for some, it remains one of the finest collaborations in music history, a true cult album.
Even if you’re dismissive of the album, you cannot doubt that Pros and Cons was a significant moment in Waters’ career, as he broke from the past and attempted to move into the future, even if the music was, well, from the past.
Listen to The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking in full below.