NO MATTER THAT THE FIRST SINGLE OFF ROGER WATERS'S NEW album, Amused to Death, has a bit of a downbeat drift, fans of the former Pink Floyd front man are only smiling these days. Just when it seemed that angry urban rappers had cornered the market on social commentary. Amused to Death has hit the charts, marking the return of an aging rock visionary with some views of his own. In Amused, Waters has crafted an indictment of TV-age warfare that is his best solo effort since his departure from Pink Floyd eight years ago.
Not that Waters, 48, has become a street-marching peacenik exactly. Married, with two teenage stepchildren, the rock veteran lives the life of a country squire in a late-19th-century Victorian home outside London. There are pre-Raphaelite paintings on the walls, a trout stream out back and enough room on his 15-acre estate to raise several racehorses and greyhounds. "I like the battle of the bookies," Waters says of dog racking. "Sometimes they win, sometimes I win."
For the past five years, though, Waters has been focusing less on fish and finish lines than on his new record, a work of antiwar sentiment that often echoes his own past. His father, Eric, was killed on a beachhead during the World War II battle of Anzio in Italy, eight months before Waters was born. Says Waters: "Because of my father's death, I feel a kind of connection with the unbelievable savagery and sadness that are in most people's lives."
Raised by his mother, a schoolteacher, Waters was studying architecture at London's Regent Street Polytechnic when he joined Pink Floyd. In 1973 the four-man group released Dark Side of the Moon, which sold more than 15 million copies and remained on Billboard's Top 200 chart for an astounding 15 years. The group became famous for its surrealistic, multimedia concerts, a trend that climaxed with its 1980 tour for The Wall, featuring a 30-foot-tall artificial edifice that came crashing down at show's end.
By then there were also serious cracks in Pink Floyd itself. In 1984 the group split, sparking a legal tussle over the rights to the band's name (inspired by old bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). Bitterness among the members remains. In one recent interview, singer-guitarist David Gilmour—who along with drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Rick Wright continued to tour and record as Pink Floyd—called Waters a megalomaniac who tried to hog the creative spotlight. Answers Waters coolly: "They are now Pink Floyd. I'd rather they weren't—that's common knowledge. We went through a whole thing about that, and now it's over."
And now there may even be cause for cheer, Waters concedes. Despite his usual acerbic gloom, his album's first single, "What God Wants, Part I," has hit MTV; his antiwar opus has been selling well, and he is even mulling a tour next year. "It's a constant surprise to me when I do work that I like," he says. "I'm glad that it still happens."
God wants peace/ God wants war/ God wants famine/ God wants chain stores.... What God wants God gets/ God help us all!