Moving On After Pink Floyd Week
Sure, we know it’s Monday and we’ve already officially started a new week here at LMB HQ, but we also needed a proper wrap-up on the festivities and celebrations surrounding Pink Floyd last week here on the site. It was Wes that threw the idea out and I had tons of friends get interested in it, so much so that we had tons of contributions that you may have missed. For all of our Pink Floyd Week posts, make sure you hit this page here and go back in time with it.
And as an editorial outtro and official closer on the week, my good friend Jackson Haddad (of One Way Station) wrote up this amazing piece of how their music affected him growing up…
One of my earliest memories is the large brown sleeper-sofa in the living room of the house where I grew up. I was four or five years old, and I used sit in front of it with my toys spread around me, imagining the brown fabric was a fantastic pre-historic landscape where dinosaurs freely roamed with He-Man, the Thundercats, and My Little Pony. My parents had moved away from New York City a few years earlier with me and my infant brother in tow towards a more quiet life in the country where they could raise the two of us and be closer to my father’s parents. They didn’t have many possessions because not much had been able to fit inside the tiny apartment they shared on Mott St. in SOHO. My mother brought her kitchen appliances and clothes, and my father brought his records and furniture.
They did not bring a TV.
Most children, before they were old enough to go to school, grew up watching Sesame Street. Not me. While I played by myself at home my mother would play records. And she would tell me to listen and not speak: it was her way of providing me with a babysitter without actually having to hire one. She would often play children’s records or classical music but since these were my father’s records she would invariably also play a few 1960′s psychedellic selections. In those afternoons, as I tired of dinosaurs, I would trace the images on the record jackets with my fingers: moving gently up the smokestacks of an industrial factory, outlining the image of a man as he stood on fire, countless white bricks, an odd triangle emitting a rainbow. At the time I had no concept of what I was looking at or listening to, but I was internalizing the music exactly as the pediatricians who’d written the books about child-rearing had said I would.
The period that followed saw my musical tastes transform and align with the punk rock genres. I would cherish each new safety pin I applied to my Army surplus cargo pants, and compulsively jerk my neck to rid the devil-lock from my line of sight.
Eventually I left public school and attended the Kent School from my sophomore to senior year. It was there I remember being indoctrinated into the world of social climbing and cliques. After a few weeks I had my friend group fairly well defined, and having been newly introduced to controlled substances, we would all sit up late into the night subjecting each other to our individual musical tastes and mostly exaggerated accounts of romantic conquests. During one of these late-night “sessions” I heard something very familiar being played, and began to sing along. After a minute, or two, the CD was paused and I was asked how I knew so much about Pink Floyd. I was already high, and now I was nervous as well. So I asked, “Pink who?” My response was met with some chuckles, but even though I didn’t know the band, I was still elevated to the level of cool because I could already sing the songs.
I remember thinking, “Thanks, Mom.”
As it turns out, we had been listening to the 1977 release of Pink Floyd’s Animals, and it changed my life forever. The idea that this information had been laying dormant inside me for 11 years impressed upon me the magnitude of power music can wield. I hadn’t heard these songs in a decade but was they were still as fresh as the first time my fingers traced up and down those smokestacks all those years ago. Aside from being introduced to other great bands like The Grateful Dead, CSNY, The Allman Brothers, and Led Zeppelin, my true high school experience began with Pink Floyd.
So I became a Floyd junkie. I bought every record they released. I scoured CD stores for imports and unreleased albums. I sought after live recordings, and obscure studio outtakes. I bought posters of Roger Waters and David Gillmore. There was a period of time, and this is no lie, that I listened to Disc One of Pulse for an entire week on repeat. My stereo was never turned off, only turned down if I needed to use the phone. I played a game of guessing what song would be playing when I got back from classes; I still remember the tiny red LED that blinked on my CD shelf for years, until it finally died.
I could “get into” an album very quickly. After hearing it once, or twice, I would tell myself I understood what they (Waters and Gillmore) were trying to tell me. I would imagine the music as represented by images, like a film in my head. Roger Waters is an excellent story teller, despite his own obsession with his father and war, and I felt I could translate his musical codes. My growth with the band did not move in a chronological order: I didn’t start listening to Piper At The Gates of Dawn and move onto Saucerfull of Secrets and so on. I had gone through Animals, Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of The Moon, Atom Heart Mother, Pulse, Divison Bell, and UmmaGumma. Finally I bought The Final Cut, Obscured By Clouds, and Meddle. Those covers were boring but I didn’t have them yet so I had to experience them – immediately. My logic was, “Buy what looks cool.”
And because of this approach, at the end of all my collecting, I finally bought The Wall. And then I stopped buying Pink Floyd music of any kind. I was done. This was it: the end result of years of the band’s maturity process. The most pure form of music and storytelling that I’d ever heard. And I couldn’t believe I was only just discovering it! I was a junior in high school in 1999, and this record had been around for 20 years already. So I started listening to The Wall every day, and soon I realized I was able to imagine a cinematic storyline that flowed within the two discs. I heard a story about a boy who loses his father in war and who becomes a famous musician; but who is empty inside and neither wealth nor fame nor love can fill his emptiness. It is a sad story, and represents the darkest part of Roger Water’s career and also a turning point for him musically. His band was falling apart, and he couldn’t put the pieces back together. He would never write the same type of music he was noted for in the early 70s.
After the demise of Pink Floyd, in his solo years that followed, Waters was never able to escape the recurring theme of war and loss. He became overtly political and while people shouldn’t find fault in an icon speaking about something they truly believe in, fans of the innovation and whimsy that was indicative to Pink Floyd certainly lost some of their admiration for the man. But we must remember this is the same person who maintains 100% ownership for writing The Wall!
In my senior year of high school I remember raving about The Wall to my group. We had replaced our sophomore year “sessions” with something we called Jazz Time. We’d still sit around listening to music and smoking pot, but now we drank liquor too. And it was during one of my many urgings to listen to The Wall again that one person butted in and told to go watch the movie. I shut up in the middle of a sentence and inquired about just exactly what they were referring to. And I must admit this was another moment where I received chucked. Here was a self-proclaimed Floyd guru who didn’t know The Wall was also a film! It did not take long to acquire a TV, VCR, and VHS copy of The Wall, and needless to say what happened afterwards was earth shattering.
The Wall begins, in my opinion, with one of the coolest opening tracking shots ever put to film. You are slowly taken alongside what looks to be a fantastic pre-historic landscape where dinosaurs freely roam with He-Men, Thundercats, My Little Ponies. No. Wait…
It’s actually the forearm of a catatonic man wearing a Micky Mouse watch. The cigarette in his hand has burned down to the filter the long, extended stem of ash balances precariously on the screen. The man twitches. A door slams open to the first notes of “In The Flesh.” From that point on The Wall showed me everything I had ever imagined it would be. Each scene took my exact impulses I had listening to it on my headphones and brought them to life in physical form. The animated sequences were essential to portray certain songs that skirted the boundaries of the literal and bounded into the figurative. They were perfectly sublime. The actor, Pink himself, embodied the loneliness I expected from such a hollow character. The scenes of himself as a young boy made me cry for his inevitable loss and his fall into darkness. I don’t think I closed my mouth the entire time the movie was on.
After it was over I left my room and washed my face in the bathroom down the hall. I looked at myself in the mirror and I knew I’d just had one of those moments when you know you’re in the right place. I knew my instincts had been right all along, and I that I could trust myself and my own judgements. I felt like I could empathize with greater confidence, and as a growing musician myself, I could put that confidence – the Í-feel-what-I’m-doing-is-right mentality – into my own music. And it was a thrilling realization. When I got back to my room I put The Wall away, and I took the CD out of my stereo.
And I replaced it with some good old Misfits.
And just like that, we now replace our Pink Floyd Week coverage with the regularly scheduled tomfoolery and shenaniganigans….
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