From 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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