Inspired by his friendship with American DJ Jim Ladd, childhood memories of listening to Radio Luxembourg (pretty much the only way to hear pop songs in the UK in the early 50s and 60s), a paraplegic boy and a violent incident during the British miners’ strike in 1984 and 1985, Radio KAOS was an album so complex that even Waters tried to avoid explaining it.
One thing was clear, though: it was a remarkably depressing concept, even if the record ended with the disabled hero, Billy, tricking the world into thinking a nuclear war was about to start, resulting in everyone being so relieved that it was a hoax that they started rebuilding society into something less finance oriented. It was an upbeat ending, but it came after an undeniable 40 minutes of lament. Waters later said he should never have attempted to make the record.
Outside of his work on the concept, however, Waters had been through another inspiring experience: the 1985s Live Aid concert. He offered his services to Bob Geldof, but his offer was not accepted. So instead Waters spent most of the day watching the live broadcast at home before heading to Wembley to WHO‘s set. The positivity of the event prompted him to write the song “The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid).”
Watch Roger Waters’ video for ‘The Tide Is Turning’
Faced with the prospect of releasing a negative album, Waters’ label insisted on some kind of change. According to some sources, co-producer Nick Griffiths suggested adding “Tide” to the end of the track list – which is exactly what Waters did. Instead of leaving the world Radio KAOS with just a glimmer of hope, the song spoke of true change:Now the satellite is confused / For Saturday night the airwaves were full of compassion and light / And his silicon heart warmed at the sight of a billion candles burning / Oo, oo, oo, the tide is turning.”
Waters being Waters, there was an additional message conveyed in a verse that did not appear on the recorded version, in which he regrets Sylvester Stallone and the glamorization of war portrayed in the actor’s 80s films, such as Rambo franchise. Reportedly concerned about potential legal action, the omitted lines included “Now the past is over, but you are not alone / Together we fight Sylvester Stallone / We will not be dragged into his South China Sea of macho bullshit and mediocrity.”
While “Tide” was a moderate hit in the UK upon its release in November 1987, the song was unable to turn the tide for Radio KAOSwhich suffered from being released around the same time as A momentary lack of reason, Pink Floyd‘s first album without Waters. But the song lived on in spirit. Waters later said that his spirit ran through the concept of his successful 1992 LP Murdered to Death. “All the glimmers of hope that we see in the early 90s, I hope this is the end of the dog shit that was the 80s,” he said. “It’s all happening very, very quickly. And that’s the point I’m trying to make in the record. All of a sudden we’re bombarded with all this information. Can we make sense of it and move forward?”
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