Jun 272013


Just yesterday I was ranting about the Pompous Rock March of “Eminence Front,” and I made reference to another song I find especially hectoring and unpleasing, Pink Floyd‘s “Have a Cigar.” That song, like a lot of Pink Floyd song, is the aural equivalent, for me, of the rare times I feel nauseous. “What enjoyment do people get out of feeling nauseous?” I ask myself whenever it comes on the radio.

Driving home from a great dinner out with my wife and friends last night the radio punished me with a double-shot of Hectoring Rock Marches: Tom Petty‘s interminable”You Got Lucky” followed by, you guessed it, “Have a Cigar”! I, in turn, punished my wife by complaining through the entire Tom Petty song and the intro of the Floyd song, at which point she called bullshit on me.

“Can you ever shut up through a song?” she snapped at me. “If you like it, I have to hear you point out all the little parts you think are cool, making it impossible for me to hear the song itself. If you don’t like it, I get this.” She drove it home with this crushing aside: “For 22 years…”

I told her I was turning over a new page immediately, and quickly thought to myself how fortunate I am to have you as an outlet.

As the New Me quietly let “Have a Cigar” play—because to change the station on a song that my wife likes less than I do (and doesn’t even get joy in criticizing) would still be tantamount to yet another editorial from me—I started wondering what the point was of being in Pink Floyd after Syd Barrett left and they developed their classic sound. Was there any joy in membership in Pink Floyd? Do they ever sound like they’re having a laugh while playing a song? Do you imagine them sharing inside jokes over pizza during recording breaks? Did they ever high-five each other over a well-played part or performance? Did anyone but Roger Waters even care when the pig took flight?

One of the things I love most about music and about playing in a band is the camaraderie, the communal vibe, the knowing glances. I will grant there are some cool things in even the most nauseating Pink Floyd songs, but they rarely if ever give off the sense that they’re brothers in arms, or whatever corny term might apply. It’s as if they are drab office or factory workers being recorded without their knowledge or regard.

In some ways it’s admirable that they were so dedicated to their craft, so ascetic that they did not allow themselves to whistle while they worked. In many ways, however, I will never relate.


  22 Responses to “The Joy of Pink Floyd?”

  1. ladymisskirroyale

    I don’t have to have to be an English major to detect the real theme here: Man vs. (Wo)Man or “Why don’t others appreciate the music (and my vocalized insights) as much as I do?”

    Mod, Pink Floyd aside, this post appears to be more about when and to whom it is permitted to make musical commentary.

    This reminds me of an infamous “fight” Mr. Royale and I had on one of our long, tedious I5 drives down to Los Angeles: we were heading down to attend an 80’s party, and Mr. Royale was very pleased to have compiled an entire 3-disc 80’s compilation. As you know, I celebrate the music of the 80’s and was looking forward to his djing. I got through disc one alright, but part way through disc two, I asked about a particular band that I liked. Nope, forgot to include that one on the compilation. How about another of my favorite bands – even a single track? Nope, nothing from them, either. This is where I started to get angry: I was trapped in a car with my music-loving husband, but the music he compiled was HIS rendition of the 80’s, and didn’t really reflect much of mine.

    If Dear Crabby were here, I believe she would agree with me about Car Music Rule #1: Consider Your Audience.

    You were in a car with Mrs. Mod and some friends. Were all of them up for musical discourse that evening? Perhaps they just wanted to unwind and enjoy an evening with you and the Mrs. Perhaps a little radio music was meant to be background music, not grounds for dissection. I don’t know. But to deal with some of the commentary that is common in OUR household, we have started a semi-flexible rule: he who drives controls the choice of music. The unwritten rule is that the passenger can make only so many comments before getting the stink eye and the silent treatment. Let’s just say that car rides in the Royale Household can be very fun.

    That said, I like Pink Floyd, I like that song, even though it’s not one of my favorites (I prefer the b-side). It doesn’t bother me when I’m just listening to the song on the radio whether the band appears to be interacting or not. If I saw them live, I would feel differently (but when I did see them live, I was too irritated by the boors standing behind me and shouting at the stage, and wishing I hadn’t chosen that month to not be drinking).

  2. Pink Floyd are pretty joyless indeed, and that’s what killed them for me as my tastes evolved in college. But are they all that different from ’70s peers like Crimson, Genesis, ELP in that regard?

    I do think there was an undercurrent of male camaraderie and mourning its passing in an album like Wish You Were Here, but I think it may be more of a subtextual thing. That’s a mostly cold-sounding album, so it’s hard to pick up on.

    I’ve only flipped through it in bookstores, but supposedly Nick Mason’s autobiography attempted to better reveal the band’s friendship, private jokes, etc. that never got covered in other bios. No idea if it’s successful in that regard.

    Now that they are on Spotify, I’m probably going to spend some time this week trying to pick through their discography. Nothing after Dark Side, however. If you want to hear them sounding like actual human beings playing music, that’s your best bet — stick with the early stuff.

  3. One giant difference between Pink Floyd and some of their peers that you mention is that, for the most part, their music is much better:) I do like my share of King Crimson, and from all performances I’ve seen of them, they do give off energy and interact on stage. Not only that, just listening to the records demonstrates clear shows of bonding, one-upsmanship, etc.

    Good point about the subtext of the Wish You Were Here album!

    I actually picked up most of the classic Pink Floyd albums at a yard sale in the mid-’80s. Like I said, I enjoy enough of their music, their lyrical themes, Gilmour’s guitar solos, their album covers, and their studio craft. Every once in a while – OK, any time I hear them – I try to get my head around their motivations and fail miserably.

  4. It was just the 2 of us in the car. We share enough of the same tastes in music that we don’t suffer what’s playing. The only time we have issues is when I’m being overly analytical and talking over the music and about stuff only someone like Andyr would be interested in discussing. I can get in a comment now and then without boring or disturbing Mrs. Mod. She, however, still likes actually listening to music, not just thinking and talking about it.

  5. sammymaudlin

    I had a related conversation with someone yesterday and I have mentioned the gist of it here before. Whenever I have friends and/or Townsfolk who LOVE a band that I don’t my first thought is “have I really tried to like that band?”

    Case in point, The Smiths. At one time The Smiths were the end-all-and-be-all of indie-cool-guy rock but I didn’t like them. These same friends and I liked many of the same indie-cool-guy stuff; The Stooges, Meat Puppets, Gang of Four… I have tried several times over and just simply do not like The Smiths In fact, I can’t stand them. My reaction to them is akin to the reaction posted here re: Have a Cigar.

    What I come to in the end though, with some exceptions, is that I am the loser. Not a “Loser” as in the Beck-song kinda way but I’m the one who is missing out. Trusted friends with personally-verified taste get enjoyment out of something that I don’t. Yay them! Boo me…

    Maybe I just don’t “get” The Smiths? Well intellectually I think I do. I can hear what they’re going for and I think they conquer it. From a soul-POV though, they don’t touch me. So I think by not-getting-it I mean that they just aren’t for me. In fact they so aren’t for me that they make nauseous as Pink Floyd does to Mr. Mod.

    So personal taste, experience, POV and maybe even genetic makeup play a part here.

    I don’t despise anyone that loves The Smiths. I admit that they just aren’t for me and I am happy for the folks that they are for.

    That said I will take issue with some of the specifics mentioned.

    “What enjoyment do people get out of feeling nauseous?”- Just as The Smiths make me nauseous and not others…so goes Pink Floyd and Cap’n (sic) Beefheart and Throbbing Gristle and …

    “I started wondering what the point was of being in Pink Floyd after Syd Barrett left”- Two VERY different bands. I personally call Syd’s version THE Pink Floyd as a way of differentiating them. To compare them on grounds beyond their distinctuality (I think I made that word up?) is a fool’s game. They stayed in because they wanted to make music and they apparently wanted to make music together and they had some name recogntion so they kept the name. (My take on it.)

    “Do they ever sound like they’re having a laugh while playing a song? Do you imagine them sharing inside jokes over pizza during recording breaks? Did they ever high-five each other over a well-played part or performance?”- If this is criteria for appreciating a band then there are LOADS of great bands that should taken off the list, including XTC. Granted I can see XTC doing this more than Pink Floyd but certainly not to the extent I can see The Clash doing it.

    And there are loads that should be added, including The Replacements or better yet this 80s AZ band, The Jetzons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJSEBQctjHM . These guys loved to have a good time on and off the stage.

    So I as I consider myself the loser in regards to The Smiths I consider myself the winner in regards to Pink Floyd, whom I love. Yay me!

  6. sammymaudlin

    “I do think there was an undercurrent of male camaraderie and mourning its passing in an album like Wish You Were Here, but I think it may be more of a subtextual thing. That’s a mostly cold-sounding album, so it’s hard to pick up on.” I have heard both Gilmour and Waters, on different occasions and not together, same pretty much this exact thing.

    Aside from Piper, which keep in a class of it’s own, I don’t agree with the “early stuff” direction. My, and the great unwashed’s, faves are the big three: Dark Side, Wish…, Animals with Animals being my favorite.

    That said! I LOVE Live at Pompeii for a number of reasons and I think those reasons underscore what they were great at vs. what they intentionally avoided (being a good-time rock-and-roll band).

  7. sammymaudlin

    Why do I almost always get 1 instant high-five when I comment but sometimes don’t?

    Effing Back Office. Dude is a tool.

  8. So sensitive, yet a bit off the mark. This isn’t an effort to get the music of Pink Floyd or to aspire to being a bigger, more compassionate man. I’m fine with Pink Floyd’s music. It’s just that I can’t make sense of why they played music in a band. They don’t do the things it seems to me bands were formed to do. They’re more like a group that paints murals.

  9. What about side 1 of Meddle? It’s certainly the most optimistic/positive Pink Floyd album (once you get past that part about the guy wanting to cut you into little pieces). The next three songs: Pillow of Winds, Fearless and San Tropez all seem like the work of a group at peace with itself and they have a less “technical” and more organic feel. And the last song on that side is a goof of a blues about a guy and his hound dog complete with dog noises in the back. Surely this was done tongue in cheek and opposed to the Big Heavy Message that was supposed to be emphasized with the animal noises on Animals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DX7I92SJeM

  10. sammymaudlin

    “They’re more like a group that paints murals.” I agree to a degree. What’s wrong with that? In their particular case I don’t think that any one of them individually could’ve painted the same murals. So by that reasoning, they are a band. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    I would definitely apply the same reasoning to Belew-ear Crimson. I wouldn’t though apply it to XTC as I think Andy Partridge could’ve painted murals pretty close to the ones that XTC (Drums & Wires and after) did.

    There are bands that are bands whether they are cranking out the rock or painting aural murals. Each component of the band usually has a different weight/importance related to the final product but if one is gone, it shows. The Replacements sans Bob Stinson, whether you are pro/anti Bob, sounded noticeably different with him gone.

  11. sammymaudlin

    Yes! A close 4th in favorite Floyd for me and sometimes #3. It is the bridge between the early and the prime. For friends that have shrugged off Floyd due to what I interpreted as too-cool-for-school reason, have dug Meddle. Many, most, didn’t realized it was Floyd and it acted as a gateway-Floyd album for some.

    I love side 2 though also and I can hear the beginning of Dark Side on it.

  12. sammymaudlin

    Sensitive, yes, to a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XV1DK9tSHio .

    I’d look good in a hat like that.

  13. Oh I like side two as well. It’s probably my favorite Floyd album.

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    Just yesterday, the Sarge and I got to talking about the supposed synchronicity between Floyd’s “Dark Side Of the Moon” and the Wizard Of Oz. Because I knew I would never find the time or energy to actually conduct the experiment myself (well, that and the fact that I don’t actually own any Pink Floyd albums), I headed out to YouTube, knowing that 1,000 people would have already conducted the experiment for me to see.

    My number two takeaway was: synchronicity? Bullshit! I won’t bore you with the reasons why; you just have to sit through the excruciating 30-minute “best-of-Floyd-Oz-synchronicity” film-lets to see what I’m talking about. maybe a king-sized skull bong hit would help.

    My number one takeaway was: oh my God in heaven, this album never shuts the fuck UP. Seriously, there’s some good tune-age on it, but just when you think they’ve wrapped their 4-minute pop song up with tidy aplomb… they go and tag a 6-minute coda on the end of it, in a minor key, with an endless sax solo, or a caterwauling Very Black Woman From A Robed Choir, or some spoken-word nonsense that is made to sound like an overheard conversation between a stockbroker and a dentist. Shut up already!

    For me, Pink Floyd are a band that could have been pretty good, but — very disappointingly — just aren’t. And it’s their own damn fault. I don’t know if lack of band joy is the root of the problem, but something just makes their music go on and on and on in a very sad way indeed. For me, they’re lead contenders for the Shut Up Already crown.

  15. Mine as well.

  16. HVB, we reach!

    Let me put it delicately: from my ” throne,” as I read this, the part about the codas induced a hearty guffaw, which in turn induced the quick, strong flow of air from another end. Thank you.

  17. cliff sovinsanity

    If I may steal a line from Bostonhistorian, I have not much use for Pink Floyd after Meddle.

  18. ladymisskirroyale

    A shout out to sammy:


    This could not be weirder, and oh, how I wish I could have been there. Any band that manages to play a live show at the toilet-in-the-desert of Big Surf had to act like a band, not a collection of individuals. The sand would have been too hot to stand around idly and look at their feet. In the process of jumping around, they would have had to look to the others so as not to miss their cues.

    I’m a big fan of the soundtrack, Obscured By Clouds (horrible movie, BTW. But if you haven’t seen it, and enjoy the concept of attractive women deciding to native – literally and figuratively, it’s the movie for you. Hippiness abounds.). There is an assortment of songs that could be outtakes of other albums, but reflect more variability that many of their other early discs. Every now and then, they seem to come out of their hashish haze and seem to play like a band. On “Free Four” they at least count in together (see 26.17): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X73Vk3baEWE

  19. I’m a fan of the 2nd chapter of Pink Floyd. I don’t care that they don’t seem to be buds with each other. I’ve always considered that version of the band to be just excellent backing musicians for Roger Waters’ songs.

    I think Waters is really underrated. Granted they are a hugely successful multi multi platinum band, but he rarely gets mentioned as an excellent song writer. Rogers aimed high with his concept pieces, and I think he generally hit the target well.

    While your Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Rush, etc. bands have lyrics dealing with outer space or faeries, Waters was penning songs about the human condition and madness which I find interesting. He’s gone to that well frequently, but it’s still worthwhile.

    HVB is spot on that the songs devolve into a lot of waste of time stuff, but many of the songs before that point are very very good.

  20. If you don’t listen to much music, I don’t know why you would be here. But in case you don’t and you like TV: Pink Floyd = Family Guy. Fake intellectual crap that non-thinking people think is thinking music. No, I can’t comment on the third song on the B-side of their fifth record, sorry. They were never worth digging into…

    C’mon why are we even taking them seriously?

  21. northvancoveman and kpdexter make their voices heard in the same week?!?! Is there hope yet for the grand RTH Reunion telemovie? Nice analogy!

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