bleating and babbling

Animals
F
rom the time I was old enough to recognize that music is important, I’ve gone through these phases where a certain band will jam a guitar into the base of my skull and twist around there until I listen to them enough to fill my brains with their music and push the guitar (which is usually a Les Paul, and occasionally a Fender Stratocaster) out.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you can see when this happens, because it’s usually revealed in the titles of my entries. There have been Radiohead and Pixies and Get Up Kids and Mike Doughty explosions, but the one band I’ve come back to over and over again since I was in high school is Pink Floyd.

It was Pink Floyd who introduced me to the concept album, and showed me that music could be something more than background noise. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Animals: I was working on a show called Monsters, which was a cool little Tales From the Darkside-ish anthology show. My episode was really cool: it was called Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites, and was about two barbers who do all sorts of unspeakably horrible things to feed a creepy blood-sucking Lovecraftian monster. We filmed the whole thing in a tiny little warehouse-ish building down near the center of Hollywood (I think it was off Santa Monica, between Highland and Gower, but I’m not sure) over the course of about a week in 1990.

I played opposite Matt LeBlanc in that show. To illustrate how weird Hollywood is: Matt was new to town and the entertainment industry, and though he was older than me, I was the veteran actor. I was also a Really Big Deal at the time (though the slow-but-sure slide down to the C list had already begun) and it’s this moment in time where you can see the graphs of our careers cross: he was rising and I was falling. Weird, isn’t it?

Matt was a relly nice guy, and a lot of fun to work with. He’s also singularly responsible for introducing me to The Simpsons. I remember sitting in his dressing room between setups one day, talking about TV shows, and he asked me if I’d seen it. I told him that I’d watched one or two episodes, and I wasn’t particularly impressed (if you look at season one of The Simpsons, I think you’ll agree that it was a very acquired taste back then.)

He was surprised, because we’d been talking about Monty Python and Life in Hell, and other types of off-beat humor, and he was convinced that I’d like the show. To prove this to me, he recreated the entire episode where Bart is sent to France and ends up slaving away in the vineyard.

I couldn’t tell you a single thing about working on that episode (other than being afraid I was going to cut myself with a straight razor) but I can still close my eyes and hear Matt saying, "Don’t eat ze grapes, Bart!" I thought it was so hilarious, I gave The Simpsons a chance, and was hooked pretty quickly after that.

But this post was originally about Pink Floyd, right? I was already into Pink Floyd a little bit by this time, and a casual fan of The Dark Side of the Moon, and Wish You Were Here. I don’t remember how I ended up with Animals, but I had the CD and a portable CD player (kids: way back in 1990, before the advent of MP3 players, your parents carried around CD players which were very portable at around five pounds each. We also carried around ten or twenty CDs at a time, in a wallet sort of thing. And we listened to our CDs while we walked uphill both ways in the snow to get to school because we liked it.)

At this point in the story, I feel compelled to point out that, even though I love Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead, I’m not a stoner, and never have been. Stoners bug the everlivingfuck out of me, and nothing makes me leave a party or event faster than a bunch of pot heads. I also feel compelled to point out that the so-called War on Drugs is an abject and total failure (much like the Bush adminstration) and I fully support changing a lot of our drug laws here, especially de-criminalizing marijuana, mmmkay?  And I now feel further compelled to point out that I’m not casting judgement on stoners. I know plenty of stoners who I genuinely like a whole bunch; I just don’t come out to play when they’re sparking up.

Anyway, I had Animals on CD, and though I was initially turned off by Pigs on the Wing (part one), Dogs grabbed my attention, and by the time Pigs (three different ones) started, I was completely hooked. (After a few listens, I grew to love Pigs on the Wing (I & II) and even taught myself how to play it on the guitar. I can’t imagine Animals without those beautiful and tender songs wrapping up the rest of the album.)

I clearly recall leaning back in this shitty chair with wobbly legs, my feet up on a standard-issue office furniture desk, eyes closed, and nearly falling over when Roger Waters sang,

Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha, charade you are

I crossed a Rubicon. I don’t know what it was about those lyrics (they’re not even the lyrics that resonate strongest with me from that album, let alone the entire Floyd catalogue) but the music,  the way he sang "ha ha, charade you are!" and the deep, dark, rich ominous weight of the whole thing spoke to me in exactly the right way. I guess it’s kind of sad that, at 19, I was already deeply cynical and responsive to that, huh? After work that day, I went to the record store (kids: it’s sort of like iTunes Music Store, but you walk into it and talk to people about what you want to buy, and occasionally disscover new and interesting music while you’re there) and bought every Pink Floyd album they had. I entered an extended Pink Floyd phase, where I spent hours just listening to and exploring the music. We didn’t have Wikipedia back then, so I went on several record store quests to find old magazines and books about the band, so I could get a better idea where their music came from and what they were all about.

Last night, listened to Animals and Wish You Were Here while I chased album notes and band history down the Internets’ rabbit hole (start here if you’re intrigued) including a re-examination of The Publius Enigma.

I wish a band would come out and be the modern equivalent to Pink Floyd. Green Day kind of did it with American Idiot, but that’s a hell of a stretch, I think. I want to hear concept albums that tell me a story from start to finish, that aren’t single-oriented.

Heh. I guess I’m saying that I’m still waiting for Radiohead to follow-up OK Computer. It’s a long way to go, isn’t it?

 

Oh, and I made this post in Performancing. (Then I did a little tweaking by hand, to add the image and clean up the tags.) Cool.

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84 thoughts on “bleating and babbling”

  1. late in high school it was the “Eagles”. A friend’s mom had the “The Eagles:
    Eagles Live”, album. That album talked to me at that point in my life. I began collecting every album I could.
    I listened to them incessantly, day and night. Gradually, as things these sort of things tend to do, I slowly moved on to other music.
    Now, 18+ years later, hearing any eagles song brings back a flood of sights, sounds, and feelings.
    For me they were on cassette. Cd’s were either too new or too expensive at the time. They were like $10 a pop. while tapes were only around $7.(Not only did we walked uphill both ways in the snow to get to school. But for entertainment we stared at the sun all day and burned our eyes out, because we liked it.)

  2. Radiohead desperately needs to release another album as good as OK Computer. It was, er, IS the soundtrack of my twenties.

  3. I was a big fan of the Floyd in high school as well. I think what really cinched it for me, though, was when I realized how the big 5 albums were cyclical: Dark Side of the Moon opens and closes with the heartbeat; Wish You Were Here opens and closes with a “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”; Animals opened and closed with a “Pigs on the Wing”; the Final Cut opens and closes with a car driving; and the most amusing, The Wall disc 2 side 2 ends with “Isn’t this where…” and disc 1 side 1 begins with “…we came in?”

  4. I’m a Floyd fan no doubt. But my two bands I never get tired of is the Grateful Dead and Kula Shaker. Kula Shaker has just reformed after a 6 year absence, and are releasing an EP on itunes march 31. They’re touring Britain for the next few months then going to Japan (where they are worshipped) to do the Fuji Rock Festival.
    If you want to see some of they’re music vids and songs from some concerts here they are:
    Music Videos
    Hey Dude:
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=8LP97EOW
    Tattva:
    http://s52.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=1F3Z0KIFDI0P72T2HA8N1XHR7J
    Govinda:
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=S3VBI4ER
    Mystical Machine Gun:
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=IQF0WMMM
    Grateful When You’re Dead:
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=DPS5KAI3
    Shower Your Love:
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=ONG967ZP
    Hush:
    http://s37.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=3250WPIUKES9N1OEBPF3W4JYEK
    Live videos:
    Hey Dude (Live Glastonbury 97):
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=ZH7JIH60
    Shower Your Love (Live Glastonbury 99):
    http://s37.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=1RI06HGMTLNKR1PBTK3RYDWR0Q
    Govinda (Live on MTV):
    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=X8GMVBHS

  5. Personal recommendation: Panic! At the Disco.
    I don’t know much about them as I’m just getting into their music, but they are a punk rock/technoish band who just wrote an amazing concept album called “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” with track titles like “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” and “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.” The whole thing is the story of a wedding ruined by a sordid affair on the part of the bride.
    Here’s their MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/panicatthedisco
    And you can listen to another one of their songs here: http://www.purevolume.com/panicatthedisco

  6. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard it or not, but my favorite concept album of all time is Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. It’s a two-CD long story that is nothing short of awesomeness.
    And don’t pre-judge because it is the same band that spawned “Invisible Touch”, because it isn’t the same band, really. It’s from the seventies when Peter Gabriel was still the front-man.
    This album is probably my favorite of all time. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but someone who enjoys the Floyd may have an appreciation for it.

  7. If you are looking for a great band, I suggest you check out Muse. It’s seriously some of the most beautiful stuff I have heard in a while, and they have a great mix of hard/soft mixed within the same songs. I was a radiohead freak in college, and their sound is pretty incredible, and so full.

  8. What I remember most about my portable CD player back in the day, was the fact you couldn’t really listen to the music unless you kept the unit perfectly still.

  9. Wil, I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan and own their entire catalogue, complete with a few rare albums that weren’t initially available to those of us in the US until the Golden Age of technology came along with nifty little sites like eBay and Amazon.com.
    I came across quite a few of those gems in used record stores back when I was a teenager, and yes, I’ll cop to being a pot smoker then, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stoned to appreciate Pink Floyd!
    The Dark Side Of The Moon came out the year that I was born, but being the youngest kid in my family meant that I was exposed to all sorts of cool music when I was a kid.
    I didn’t come along until 7 years after my sister who was *supposed* to be my Parents last child, so I wound up inheriting most of the albums that she had outgrown by the time I was old enough to appreciate them.
    As much as I love Animals, Wish You Were Here, Relics and so many of their other albums, Dark Side has always been my favorite Floyd album because even though it came out 33 years ago, the lyrics and the meaning behind them are timeless.
    Not to mention, the way the album was produced was pure genius, considering the fact that even though they had used State of the art 16 track recording, in order to achieve all of the sound effects that are looped throughout the tracks, Roger Waters physically cut and taped the reels of tape together, overlapped them and fed them manually through the tape machine himself.
    Pretty impressive when you think about how most of the modern music that is being recorded today is done using digital multi-track software programs like Sonic Foundry and Logic Pro.
    I still own the Vinyl version of Dark Side, but the first time that I heard it on CD on a multi-channel speaker system, it absolutely blew me away from start to finish.
    I still haven’t tried listening to it while watching The Wizard of Oz, but it’s definitely something that I’ve always been curious about trying to do. Maybe one of these days, I’ll give it a try!

  10. There is(was) a ‘band’ called Planet P Project – which is basically Tony Carey – who did a concept album called ‘Pink World’. Its a scifi rock album about a boy who becomes semi-godlike and the aftermath. Its kinda Pink Floyd ish – he goes from simple acoustic guitar all the way to full rock.
    There is another album, not concept, called, ‘Planet P Project’ which is also sci fi type songs…
    Both are worth a listen
    DrEric

  11. Dude, this post made me so happy.
    Animals is definately my favorite Floyd album. I was introduced to Floyd by my Ballroom dance partner. He asked me what I thought of Floyd and I admitted that I had never heard them. So he burned me a couple of the CD’s. My Animals disk now skips at the end of Dogs and throughout all of the “haha charade you are” ‘s
    Oh, and I agree on the whole stoner thing. I have never been high and I plan to keep it that way. You don’t have to be stoned to enjoy great music.
    Thank you for posting about Floyd :) And do listen to On and Island — Tres good!

  12. Hi there,
    The war on drugs won’t end because our economy can’t afford for it to. All that extra cash from the drug trade respresents a mighty share of American capital. They won’t leagalize pot because the taxes from selling the leaglized product wouldn’t compete with the influx of unaccounted cash entering our economy through the drug trade.
    This is worth researching if it piques your fancy (or if you think its a far-feched conspiracy theory). Renowned economists have written on the phenomenom. That’s why so few people know about it. Who listens to stuffy economists?
    OK, long enough post. I loved Wesley Crusher, but I love Wil Wheaton 10x more. But I totally respect his very cool wife, so have no fear…

  13. Oh, I totally forgot to mention in my reply about The Dark Side of The Moon that Pink Floyd were such huge Monty Python fans that they actually used some of the money that they made from the initial sales of the album to help fund The Holy Grail.
    Nice bit of trivia, huh?
    Now fetch me a shrubbery!

  14. I can’t believe no-one mentioned Marillion on this thread.
    Their latest output Marbles (2004) is very Pink Floydish and a real strong album on its own merit IMHO.
    Well, I like it anyway…

  15. I completely understand the way certain things resonate with you, even if you can objectively say that another song or album or lyric is superior. When I need a dose of Pink Floyd, I don’t usually grab The Wall, I reach for Delicate Sounds of Thunder Live, which I originally bought because it was $2 at a pawn shop. With Wish You Were Here, Dogs of War, Shine on You Crazy Diamond, and other songs, it’s fun to listen to, and somehow the roar of the crowd heightens everything.
    I’m not sure if this qualifies as a concept album, but my vote would be for Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco. The talent is so diverse on this, and the idea so bizarre (“let’s take unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics and make them into our own kind of songs!”), that you’d never think it would turn out as well as it did. Plus I have fond memories of dancing in the rain to Ingrid Bergman.

  16. Concept albums … there’s Kate Bush’s The Ninth Wave (a.k.a. side B of Hounds of Love), and also disc 2 of her Aerial album of last year, subtitled A Sky Of Honey. Since Kate Bush was David Gilmour’s protege, there’s even a Floyd connection there.
    My other favorite concept albums are Tori Amos’ Scarlet’s Walk and Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise.

  17. I’ve never liked Pink Floyd. Maybe because I grew up with a stoner mom and her stoner friends, and anything Floyd just brings back my annoyance with stoners and stoner culture. I dunno, but I always thought they were one of those bands that people who WEREN’T stoners (or weren’t teenagers 20-somethings in the 70’s) could never understand. I guess I was wrong! :)
    Having said that: isn’t The Killers’ album supposed to be a concept album? I thought I heard that somewhere, and despite their being retardedly overplayed on the radio, they write an entertaining little tune. But my favourite concept album of all time: The Matthew Good Band’s “Beautiful Midnight” from 1998. Such a phenomenally asskicking album, and one that I am KICKING myself for not ripping to mp3 before I moved to Ireland.

  18. No one has ever compared to Pink Floyd, but I agree with you that Green Day did do a theme album with American Idiot. Without all the great dream like qualities that PF always had and the lush sounds. American Idiot got screwed because radio kills everything. They play crap out of order and then it becomes a single instead of an ensemble piece. I loved the sheer political content and the retrospective of life in American for the kids of today that came out in the Idiot album. Most of the political statements were lost on the kiddies. I spent an entire class period, one day, explining the album to a bunch of seniors who were complaining that Green Day had “sold out”. They just did not listen throughly enough to the lyrics and what the undertones were.
    As a teen I spent many, many nights falling asleep to The Wall, which is my personal Floyd fav.

  19. I want to second the nominations for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis (I’ve been listening to it since high school-class of 1989) and Marbles by Marillion. Marbles came out in April 2004 and I still listen to it at least once a week. Marillion also has a concept album called Brave that I think you would like. It’s about a girl who runs away from home and finds herself on a bridge. Will she jump? Listen to find out.

  20. Just to chime in on the concept album contributions, I don’t think any list can be complete without Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and Passion Play. It’s an especially heartfelt recommendation, because what PF was to you, Tull was/is to me…

  21. Nothing sounds better than a Sony Discman. I’m sure the kids on campus find me quaint for lugging mine around with my cd wallet, but the iPod just can’t compete.
    Helium’s “The Dirt of Luck” deserves a listen from any self-respecting music geek. They were a art-rock trio in the 90’s who counted Sonic Youth and (ahem) Beavis and Butthead among their fan base. TDOL is loaded with frontwoman Mary Timony’s tongue-in-cheek stories about stupid girls, dirty girls, and bitchy girls. At one point, her vagina becomes a mutant, man-eating flower (think Little Shop of Horrors). And it -the album- rocks on top of that!

  22. Good afternoon Mr. Wheaton,
    You might also want to check out Serge Gainsbourg concept album “Histoire de Melody Nelson”. Even without a knowledge of French (not knowing if you speak French), the arrangements are very interesting. Links: “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histoire_de_Melody_Nelson” & “http://dfisherman.blogspot.com/2006/03/histoire-de-melody-nelson.html”.
    Cheers and keep up the fine work,
    – DFisherman

  23. coincidence? i think not ;)
    WESLEY
    I can understand how this could
    happen to the Ornarans… What
    I can’t understand is why anyone
    would voluntarily become dependent
    upon a chemical.

    TASHA
    No one wants to become dependent.
    That happens later.
    WESLEY
    But it does happen. So why do
    people even start?
    TASHA
    Oh, lots of reasons… My home
    planet was a place of great
    poverty and violence. For some,
    the only escape was through drugs.
    DATA
    I fail to comprehend how a
    chemical substance can provide
    an escape.
    TASHA
    It doesn’t. But it makes you
    think it does.
    (a beat)
    You have to understand — drugs
    can make you feel good.

    They put you on top of the world.
    You’re happy… Sure of yourself.
    In control. A lot of people never
    feel that otherwise.
    DATA
    But it is artificial.
    TASHA
    It doesn’t feel artificial. It
    feels natural, good, and mind
    expanding.
    (a beat)
    Until the drug wears off. Then
    you pay the price. Once you come
    down, you’re lower than when you
    started. So you take the drug
    again — and it kicks you back
    up. But not as high this time.
    WESLEY
    (catching on)
    So you take more.
    TASHA
    But each peak gets lower and
    the valleys get deeper. Before
    you know it — you’re taking the
    drug not to feel good but to keep
    from feeling bad.
    WESLEY
    And that’s the trap.
    TASHA
    You think the drug expands your
    universe — but it actually
    shrinks it. Shrinks it to where
    you and the drug are all that’s
    left.

  24. Hey Wil, catching up on a few days posts – just blogged your comment about the Dead over at my place: http://thumbrella.blogspot.com
    I wondered what are your favourite shows/albums/decade of The Dead? Did you see any shows?
    Keep up everything you do, I really enjoy reading your stuff.
    cheers
    Gary

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