I was listening to this album over the weekend, probably one of my all round favorite albums. I say probably because it is hard to tell. Music is like emotions, the feelings that come can be triggered in different ways, and what works for you today might be totally different tomorrow. That said, this is an album of both depth and outstanding musical quality and I have enjoyed listening to it for over 30 years now.
The album for those who don’t know it, was the first solo album of Rogers Waters of Pink Floyd fame. Recorded before the band split in the early eighties due to a mixture of musical differences and, well ego. I think Dave Gilmour wanted to go down the road of expansive musical sound, the Dark Side of the Moon Floyd, whereas Waters seemed to like the powerful lyrics that had been the backstop of albums like the Wall and The Final Cut. There were many sounds of Floyd over the years, but eventually it seemed to pull the band apart.
So Waters set out on his solo career and came up with three stunning albums, the Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking being for me the best of them. I love the others, but it is the mix of the powerful lyrics, the stunning blues guitar of Eric Clapton and the flowing storyline that set this apart for me.
The story starts with the central character meeting a woman, a Hitchhiker he has given a ride to, they fall in love and the album, a concept album follows their relationship to its dramatic end, with many twists along the way.
If you have never heard the album I suggest you have a listen. It makes a great backdrop to a long car journey, and with back up from the likes of Ray Parker and Michael Kamen and a dreamy saxophone that just add up to an overall powerful musical experience.
The album got me thinking though. Of hitchhiking, and how big a part of my life it once was. I started back in the late seventies when I was barely a teenager, sticking my thumb out as me and a mate made our way into the local town to go to the movies and the like. Catching lifts from strangers, totally unaware of the danger we were putting ourselves in. I still remember the day we were picked up by the wrong kind of guy, but despite his inappropriate conversation, we just got the ride, got where we wanted to be and then had a good laugh about what a dick he was. It never occurred to us there could be danger.
And I never really stopped hitching for many years. When I went away to college it was how I got home from Southampton to Wiltshire on the weekends, And how I got back again. I remember falling out with my step father and taking off at two in the morning, but still managing to hitch a ride, falling asleep in the car and waking up in Portsmouth. It was close enough, I just got out on the road and stuck my thumb out again.
And then when I started travelling I used it all the time. Catching a lift on a motorway in Switzerland where I had been dropped of by a truck, being picked up by some lady who just needed to talk, and took me miles out of her way so she could do just that.
Another time, with a girl I had hooked up with along the way, we hitched across the Peloponnese in Greece from Preveza to Athens, getting stuck in this broken down old car, driven by an old guy on a motorway. A traffic jam that went on for miles. He got us to open a barrel of homemade wine in the back and we all got pissed in the car. Him too! It was such a funny day.
And I took it everywhere, New Zealand in the late nineties the locals would normally take you home and feed you before setting you on your way. Malaysia where it seems to be part of the culture to give rides, the easiest place to hitch anywhere, Thailand, stuck on the back of a pickup with crates of chickens.
It was a wonderful way to travel, guys getting you to open up the glove box and roll them a joint, long conversations about life. Those times just walking on the side of the road, anywhere in the world, loving the journey, in love with the open road. That is what it was to hitchhike.
But it’s gone now. You don’t see hitchhikers anymore really. We all got to worried about picking up axe murders so it just ceased to be. Sure, you do see the odd hitcher, but as often as the fabled blue moon, and I think this is a shame. It was a great way to travel, to meet people, to really get out there on the open road. If there was one thing I think I miss the most about my younger years it was the total freedom that hitchhiking gave you.
So listen to the album if you get a chance, it really is good, and if you have your own hitchhiking stories to tell, please share. I really would like to hear. I can’t be the only person that misses the open road.