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"Radio K.A.O.S." is the 2nd solo album by British rock musician, Roger Waters. It was released in 1987 on EMI Records and produced by Roger with Ian Ritchie & Nick Griffiths.
Once again, Roger Waters proves that concept albums are what he does best. This one centers on Billy, a wheelchair bound 23 year old man from Wales. He is highly intelligent and has the ability to hear radio waves in his head, although he has no way to communicate. After stealing a phone, he experiments with it. He discovers that by adding it with speech synthesisers and computers he can communicate. By this time he is living in Los Angeles. He begins calling radio station KAOS, striking up conversations quite often with one of the disc jockeys. After a while he hacks a military satellite and makes the world believe there are going to be nuclear detonations happening in several cities around the world.
Billy's synthesised voice and the disc jockey talking are two of the sound effects that tie songs together and enhance the storyline. Each song tells more of the story. Most of the songs have a bleak outlook to them, giving you the feel that Billy's life has been sad and lonely.
"Radio Waves" is slow with impressive guitar. "Four Minutes" includes sound effects that simulate nuclear war."The Tide is Turning" is one of those songs that gives you chills up and down your spine. It offers hope and lets you know there is still good in the world.
This is one of those albums that can easily turn you into a Roger Waters fan with the first listen. If you are already a fan, you will have a deeper appreciation of his talent. His creative genius can't be missed, although he went for an understated approach this time.
1. Radio Waves
2. Who Needs Information
3. Me or Him
4. The Powers That Be
5. Sunset Strip
7. Four Minutes
8. The Tide is Turning
My rating: 9/10
Audio CD available for £4.99
1 Radio Waves
2 Who Needs Information
3 Me Or Him
4 The Powers That Be
5 Sunset Strip
7 Four Minutes
8 The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)
Billy, from Wales, is thought to be mentally disabled. His brother, Benny, and Benny's wife, Molly, look after Billy and their children at home.
Benny looses his job at the coal mine and, one night while out with Billy, sees a speech by Margaret Thatcher that angers him. He breaks into a shop and steals a phone. Also that night, Benny drops a concrete block from a bridge. As you hear in part of the album (when Benny is questioned by police), it kills a taxi driver.
Benny is consequently put in prison.
Molly can't manage alone, so Billy is sent to stay with his uncle, Dave, in Los Angeles...
Billy is actually highly intelligent and has a gift!
** ...He hears radio waves... in his head!... ** (lyrics from track 1)
Benny had hidden the stolen phone in Billy's wheelchair and realising it was similar to a radio, Billy plays around with it until he is able to use it to communicate with radio stations. He starts to contact a DJ called Jim at Radio KAOS. Through chatting, usually live on air, they become good friends. Billy eventually tricks the DJ and the listeners into thinking the world is going to end!
I was just a kid when I first listened to this 1987 concept album by Roger Waters (the bass guitarist from Pink Floyd). I really enjoyed the (very) short story on the record sleeve which I read before I listened to the music. It gave a good insight into the characters for such a short read. If I hadn't read the story I would still have understood it by listening, but only just and reading the story first makes it more special when you listen to the album.
I didn't understand all of the songs then and (perhaps shamefully) I still don't, as there is some politics in some parts. "The Powers That Be" (track 4) is political throughout. My favourite songs on the album are "Radio Waves" (track 1), "Who Needs Information" (track 2) and "Home" (track 6). Many of you that haven't heard the album will still recognise "The Tide Is Turning" (track 8), which I think is a beautiful but sad song.
I can honestly say I love this album. It's been one of my favourites since the first time I heard it (many) years ago and it's good to have a copy on CD as well as vinyl now. I think the songs are deep and even more so if you listen to the whole album right from the beginning. It's also wonderful to see such imagination going into a music album and I think it's very original to this day.
Another good thing about liking a Roger Waters concept album is that there are some hidden messages for you to explore if you so wish. There's Morse Code on the sleeve (and I know what it 'supposedly' reads but I wont spoil it incase you actually want to find out), more Morse Code at the start and end of the album and the use of older samples used in many other Roger Waters and Pink Floyd albums.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Radio waves
2 Who needs information
3 Me or him
4 Powers that be
5 Sunset strip
7 Four minutes
8 Tide is turning