Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Pretense, Thy Name Is Floyd

When one is stuck in a vortex, unable to prevail upon the better senses of creativity to create this thing called fiction, the tendency of all writers is to retreat toward the familiar, the comforting, the reliable works of art that transport us to a different place. The sonnet that inspired you to write, a viewing of the Bruegel that makes you want to paint, or watching a Welles or Fellini masterpiece: these are the things that inspire us, make us want to be better.

Me, I listen to PINK FLOYD. All the way up to 11. And it is TOTALLY AWESOME.

I've been quite the Floyd tear of late, indulging in particularly in Wish You Were Here. Wife recently got me a Christmaskah present of a Talking Heads box set, which is awesome, and I am listening to with great fervor. But I keep coming back to the Floyd, the quartet of Brits who gave us such classic LPs as Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Ummagumma. (You know Ummagumma, don’t you? Come on, it has “Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” which is about Eugene cutting off one or another limb, and “Astronomy Domine,” which is best served with copious amounts of Orange Sunshine.)

The thing about Pink Floyd was their mystique. The band possessed an essential weirdness and ambiguous, psychedelic intentions, which a 16-year-old could only marvel at – what, exactly, was Dark Side of the Moon about? There were no dumb love songs or Def Leppard paeans to rock and roll that were popular among my high school classmates.

Hey, you

Pink Floyd made a 30-minute song, split into nine parts! They put a song that filled the entire back of an album! Plus, the band kept a low profile, only adding to their mystery: you can’t explain what you can’t see. Their bombast and pretense, obvious now with the passing of years, fit perfectly into the bombast and pretense of being a misunderstood teenager who thought he was smarter than everyone else, at least those in his English classes.

I mean, didn’t these lunkheads realize that “Mother” and “Comfortably Numb” were poetry?

For a nerdy, loser teenager who sought solace in music, Pink Floyd was the perfect soundtrack to hanging out on Saturday nights, driving around the suburbs, nothing to do. (Of course, we were stoned out of our minds. And the guitar solos rocked!).

But instead of keeping this essential aura around them, they had to ruin things. Pink Floyd went back into the studio a few years ago without bassist Roger Waters, which is kind of like making a Rolling Stones record without Mick or Keith, or having sex without a penis (wait, that didn’t sound like I intended. Never mind.). The band put out a forgettable album and went on tour for about $200 a ticket at football stadiums and made about a trillion dollars. Waters sniped in public with other band members, all the dirty laundry was aired, etc.

(Now, apparently, Waters will play a concert with the rest of the band for something called Live8, in Hyde Park. Hopefully, they’ll fight on stage).

I can’t really say that this ruined the band for me, but the ugliness both in and outside the studio yet trashed another cherished memory. It makes me long for a simpler time, a happier time, a more innocent time. If that doesn’t want to make me relive the past – on paper, of course – nothing will.

Next (and related): How Another Floyd Ruined Halloween