"By the way, which one's Pink?": Pink Floyd

When I was a little girl, my dad sometimes took me to church functions known as "daddy-daughter camp-outs". Dad's not overly fond of camping, but I have a few memories of going. I know it had to be a daddy-daughter outing because I'm pretty sure there were pine trees outside. I was in the cab of the truck and a song came on that Dad turned up. When I stole a glance at him, he was staring off somewhere else ("Perhaps the road?" snickers jaded Retrospection), and gently tapping his fingertips on the dash.

The lyrics startled me, and they stuck with me. A minnowish pinch of the song, mournful and vaporous, swam little circles in the tidepool of my child-mind. It came to me sometimes like an aural ghost, once in a while, to make me wonder and not forget.

Give or take ten years later, I was a freshman in high school. A friend in Spanish I, with whom I would eventually form a kind of unofficial musical duo and have many adventures for a few short years (wherever you are, hi), asked me one day, full of musing: "Have you ever listened to 'the wall'?" He offered no clarification because he wanted to test me, as he liked so well to do that year, when he still thought of himself as a kind of older brother/protector/mentor. So I dutifully probed. "You know, The Wall, by Pink Floyd."

I told him I had not heard it. He smiled the way he did when he knew I was about to thank him for the education, and told me he'd burn it for me.

As soon as I saw the track-listing, and that the first track of the second disc (Side 3, Track 1 in vinyl terms) was a song called "Hey You", I got a chill. Such a mundane phrase but I found myself thinking that my secret mystery song might be solved. I almost forgot to really tune into it, the first time, when I knelt beside my stereo, and whooped and crowed to myself in recognition. I have to admit, it took me a couple of weeks to make myself listen to the first half of the album, so fascinating and eerie was the second.

I personally like Pink Floyd best when I'm somewhere out by myself, surrounded by nature. I once took a walk, for instance, with just my headphones and Wish You Were Here, in the desert on a partially-rainy afternoon. The sunlight streamed bright white-gold through the clouds, which were dense and gray as pigeons, and the rain fell so lightly it sparkled as it fell. The air, uncharacteristic of the area, was perfectly still and silent. It felt so otherworldly and bizarre, I honestly wondered if I hadn't stepped into another dimension.

But Pink Floyd, for all its darkness and weirdness, is beautiful too, and never more so, I think, than under the stars. I love taking Pink Floyd on midnight drives on the highway, windows down til I find a quiet spot to pull over and think for a while. Like the night, it is dark, but it is beautiful. Do you think they're mutually exclusive, or is a little darkness okay on your playlist?

For your playlist: A-Side
1. "Breathe In The Air"/"On The Run" from Dark Side of the Moon (and in my mind these 2 technically distinct tracks are inseparable)
2. "Comfortably Numb" from The Wall
3. "Bike" from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (I understand the demented duck-sound at the end is Syd Barrett's laugh, sampled, and looped backward)
4. "Wish You Were Here" from the album by the same name

For your playlist: B-Side
1. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" from Ummagumma
2. "See Emily Play" from Piper at the Gates of Dawn 
3. "Dogs" from Animals
4. "Welcome To the Machine" from Wish You Were Here

Here is my first-ever attempt at a Floydian drawing- behold, a very vague and dissimilar David Gilmour. I wish I'd done the photo justice, but I was having to use my iPad for the image. 

And for anybody who knows the story of Pink Floyd, I'd like to submit that yes, I know who Syd Barrett is, and yes, I consider Piper at the Gates of Dawn an interesting piece of work. But there is an element of experiment that bordered on silly during the Barrett years that doesn't move me. So you'll have to forgive me. I'll lay down flowers in tribute to the heartbreaking mythology of Pink Floyd some other time. Right now I'm just talking about how the seeds were planted in me. You who are in the know may also wish to note that if I had to choose a side between Waters and Gilmour, my ears tell me Waters and my heart tells me Gilmour- judge me not unkindly!

Coming up next: an artist whose birthday is on Monday! and who worked with the same producer in his early recording years as Pink Floyd did for The Wall in the late 1970's. Guess who? ;)

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