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What Does Pink Floyd Mean Today?

When news broke this week that Roger Waters would be touring behind The Wall in Fall 2010, I was grateful that I’d get one more chance to finally see the work of Pink Floyd performed live.  For a band that was born of the 1960s and came to define the 1970s, to witness The Wall in its 30th Anniversary year would be something very special indeed.

Pink Floyd is one of those iconic bands that will influence people of every generation for a hundred years.  Every music-lover has that memory when they first embraced the band’s massive, progressive sound. 

For me, it was the summer of 1995.  I was 12 years old, hanging out in my friend’s basement, where we spent a lot of time going through his dad’s LPs.  One day, my friend pulled out that iconic black cover with the prism, and I knew my life was going to change.  The Dark Side of the Moon was my only Pink Floyd record for a few years, and it keeps a special place in the sun-soaked days of summer youth, playing continuously on my Walkman as I mowed the lawn of my house in suburban Philadelphia.  I marveled with glee as the famed Wizard of Oz sync up really did work. 

It was years before I could comprehend that this music was actually made by human beings, and not some space-age robots.  The first time I really understood the fact that this was a real band that played live was at a high school party where the film Pulse was playing in the background.  I was absorbed by the songs I had internalized and amazed by the appropriately grand stage show.  Seeing the words actually come out of the mouths of David Gilmour and Roger Waters recontextualized the power of the band.

The Wall was a great soundtrack throughout high school, with its dark totalitarian themes and lost protagonist.  Many a night ended with the guitar solo of “Comfortably Numb” in my head.  It wasn’t until college that I really took a dive into the catalogue, starting with nearest cousins Wish You Were Here and Animals.  Those four albums, released over a short six years from 1973 – 1979, would be enough to secure the band’s place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where I recently saw the permanent exhibition representing the stage show and film of The Wall

There is a before and after to those golden years of production, from the psychedelic origins of Syd Barrett and 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to the Gilmour-led prog-rock of A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994).  There are some excellent tracks on these under appreciated latter albums.  I can remember being home on Christmas holiday, the candles in the window casting soft light into my bedroom as “On the Turning Away” or “Take It Back” pulsed into my consciousness. 

I guess that’s what I take away most from my ongoing love affair with Pink Floyd’s canon, the seasonal associations and memories of home, where I first learned to appreciate the beauty of their grand sounds and themes.  Every time I listen to a Pink Floyd album, like driving home for Thanksgiving last year, a new layer is added to those experiences, and music written 30 years ago now spans a decade and a half of my life. 

It’s inspiring to realize that people all over the world have Pink Floyd experiences similar to mine.  Music lovers from England to America and every other country have been touched by their art as well as their idealism.  The final time all four members of Pink Floyd played together was in London in 2005 for the Live 8 concert, standing up to be counted in the fight against poverty.

On this tour, Roger Waters will perform The Wall more times than it has ever been, and it is appropriate that this is the piece of rock theater that remains relevant, that will rekindle old fans and birth new ones.  The message is one that transcends the ages, as does the music.  And that may be the final word on Pink Floyd, that while their art captures specific moments in time, it is also timeless.   

What are some of your favorite Pink Floyd moments?

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Reader Comments (2)

I still listen to Obscured By Clouds and Umma Gumma on a regular basis. I love this band and have so many good memories associated with them. I got to see Roger Waters play at Madison Square Garden back in 2001 and still remember most of the show quite vividly. It blew my face off when he put down his bass to play the second guitar solo in Dogs. God. That whole show was beautiful though.

I was never a huge fan of The Wall though, except for a few songs. The Trial and Goodbye Blue Skies and a couple others. But The Final Cut, which dealt with a lot of the same emotions, I thought was a masterpiece. A perfect album for Roger to leave the band after.

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStir-Fried Dinosaur

It was summer of 1971 or 72. At the Santa Monica civic autotorium. Pink Floyd played echoes. My life changed forever. From then till this very moment as I type this on my blackberry 38 plus years ago and just listened to the turning away and numb, nothing can match these two in rock history. RIP Richard Write and may Aussie Floyd continue as a formidable tribute band for many years to come. I saw them twice and they were insanely good.
I will see them every chance I get, pink is parg oc who I am.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Meyerson

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