Friday, August 04, 2006
Out of the corner of my eye
Bill Gnade, the hyperintelligent proprietor of Contratimes, has hosted a discussion about The Greatest Rock Song of All Time. I weighed in last week with my nomination, Springsteen's Born To Run (see the comments section here).
Yesterday, Gnade posted his pick for greatest rock song and a defense thereof. I started to post a reply in his comments section, but I was struck with a serious bout of diarrhea of the keyboard. So I decided to post it here instead.
Read on, if you're not already too bored.
That's a very fine deconstruction of that song. I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan, as regular reader (sic) of my blog would know.
Roger Waters is one of the music world's best lyricists, and your assessment of the guitar solos (not just in this song) is spot on. I could (and have-back in college) listen to The Wall for ages and always hear something new, not to mention Dark Side and Animals. All are very high concept albums, indeed works of art in the finest sense.
That said, I don’t think I can support your assertion that Comfortably Numb, great as it is, is "the greatest rock song of all time."
The only reason I say this is the simple fact that it doesn't rock. It lacks that certain quality that makes me want to get up and move, that certain je ne sais quois that makes my toe tap and my adrenaline rush. Indeed, it makes me want to sit quietly and reflect (which is an important call to action).
But for a song to be the greatest rock song of all time, as Christopher Walken would say, "I gotta have more cow bell."
One other comment on your interpretation of the song: I think I agree about 95 percent with you discussion. But...
It's a bit unfair to discuss this song out of context with the rest of the album, particularly because it comes at such an important point in the story of Pink. It's a bit like just reading about Judas' betrayal and Jesus' crucifixion in the Bible, then stopping. You miss the most important part (resurrection).
However, a very fine point of differentiation is that I think Voice 1 (and indeed the entire first "act" of the album) is really about the amalgamation of "characters" and events in the world that drive us to self-destructive behavior. These people and events (different for everyone) are what cause us all to have our own demons, and to build our own psycho-spiritual walls. It's the very process of adolescence and what makes it so painful (does anyone really want to go through junior high again?)
But I think the point of the album (driven home in the last two tracks), is that we should strive to avoid indulging our inner demons and dragging around the psychological weight of all the crap that everyone goes through. Instead we should look for positive influences (both external and internal). If we can do these things, we stand a better chance of not breaking through the thin ice of modern living, and we will be happier in the end.
Man isn't meant to live inside his own mind. We need to be open to our feelings and the love and kindness of others, and that's incredibly difficult for some of us.
No man is an island, after all.
All alone, or in two's,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall."
tagged: music, Rock and Roll, Pink Floyd, The Wall, comfortably numb, cow bell, demons