“Can you free yourself enough to be able to experience the reality of life as it goes on before you and with you and as you go on as part of it?”

The older I get the more of a Pink Floyd fan I become. The notion of a band bringing ideas, intelligence and philosophical themes into popular music is deeply unpopular in these days of X Factor blandness, mindless Radio 1 bangerz and twee indie twats dedicating songs to David Cameron. Which makes me appreciate them all the more.

I love their utter Englishness, their fascinating and heart-breaking backstory and that they’ve pulled off the difficult trick of being both strange and popular. I’m big on the Syd Barrett stuff like Piper At The Gates of Dawn and I love the darkly political Waters-driven stuff like Animals and The Final Cut. I cherish the brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon as much as any right-thinking music fan and a little bit of wee comes out when I think about the forthcoming tribute-to-Rick Wright album, The Endless River. However, the one for me is the Wish You Were Here album. No matter how many times I hear the song Wish You Were Here, it always knocks the stuffing out of me. It’s the perfect example of two creative forces coming together from different directions, a transcendent blend of Gilmour’s poignant melody and Waters’ melancholy take on what it means to be human – a masterpiece in a minor key that’s somehow simultaneously downbeat and uplifting.

The reason I bring up Wish You Were Here is that I watched The Story of Wish You Were Here again the other day and was struck by what Roger Waters had to say about the song itself. I spend my days presenting creative ideas to clients, explaining the thinking behind concepts, discussing meaning and semiotics. Even with the simplest of ideas one of the hardest parts of the job is trying to get across what you mean with an idea, its logic, reasoning and purpose. How you believe it will effect people, motivate them to think, feel and act. If you’re not clear it’s easy to misrepresent the idea or confuse people and if you’re not careful these discussions can disappear off into the theoretical bullshitosphere. I find it’s always best to have ideas that are simple and to talk about them in a way that’s warm, easily-relatable, straightforward. Which is eminently do-able when you’re talking about an advertising concept but surely much harder when you’re talking about something as deep, rich and textured as Wish You Were Here. People think the song is specifically about Syd Barrett but it’s much broader than that.

The whole documentary is well worth watching but if you’re pushed for time, have a look at from around 51.00. Describing its meaning Roger Waters says: “I think most of the songs that I’ve ever written all pose similar questions. Can you free yourself enough to be able to experience the reality of life as it goes on before you and with you and as you go on as part of it? Or not? Because if you can’t, you stand on square one until you die. And I know that may sound like bullshit. But that’s what the song is about.” Which struck me as a phenomenally intelligent and articulate piece of thinking/speaking in response to an almost impossible question. And while on the surface it’s kind of a straightforward answer, the more I think about it, the more layers and levels there seem to be to his answer. Just like the song itself.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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