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Article 9

Rock On

Wish you were here - Pink Floyd

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 4th August, 2001)


O ver the years Rock has acquired an image of being noisy, depraved, regressive and even inspired by the devil. Yet it has been responsible for some of the finest music and poetry written in the 20th century. It has extended its influences into other art forms like Video, Film, Fashion, Dance, Art, Virtual Reality etc. and its dimensions far exceeds the obvious and superficial exterior that is exposed to the uninitiated. One of the finest examples to illustrate my point would be the founder of underground and psychedelic rock, Pink Floyd.

Led by the genius singer/guitarist, Syd Barrett, they were pioneers of a movement of dark and experimental lyricism that would influence generations of bands to follow. It was Syd, who came up with the name The Pink Floyd Sound, inspired by two jazz artists Pink Anderson, and Floyd Council and the band enjoyed its first British success with the hit "See Emily Play". But it was not long before Syd's experiments with LSD proved disastrous for the stability of the band. The pressures of being a star finally took its toll and Syd was asked to leave the band with David Gilmour, his old friend, replacing him. Soon the band was on its way with the release of a steady stream of albums leading to the path breaking "Dark Side of the Moon" in 1973.

It was now that Pink Floyd finally found its true self! Brilliantly produced with a hypnotic spacey feel, it epitomized what has come to known as the "English" sound. Featuring the surrealistic lyrics of Waters and the guitar heroics of Gilmour, the album became one of the biggest selling records of all time, currently in excess of 25 million copies. It hit number 1 in the Billboard charts and began what was to become a record-breaking 741-week US chart stretch. It is rumored that there is a CD factory in France whose total production for the year is dedicated to the production of this album!

This was the beginning of the golden period of Pink Floyd. My favorite album "Wish you were here" was next. Dedicated to Syd Barrett, it featured a tribute to this old band mate with the song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Another masterpiece album was to follow with the release of "The Wall". A thinly disguised autobiographical tale, it was dominated by Roger Waters imaginative lyrics and went on to be the 2nd largest selling album of the band. Containing a scathing criticism of the educational system "We don't need no education" where the chorus was sung by schoolchildren, it became the ultimate Rock Anthem to millions of students in all the campuses of the world, India included.

From the beginning of their career, the band had always used the latest audiovisual components and cutting edge technology in their recordings and live shows but the concert tour of the Wall was a highpoint in Pink Floyd's life. They used a wall to cover them, which slowly collapsed as the show progressed, and they were using other dramatic effects like ballet, sets, lasers etc. to enhance the impact of the music. It was only natural that they now entered the powerful medium of Cinema and "The Wall" became a film that received great critical acclaim.

By this time, the volatile personalities of the band members had begun to take their toll. Similar circumstances in the lives of highly creative musicians have always led me to wonder whether there is any relationship between the tension within a band and the great music they create! The animosity within the band was legendary and the war between Waters and Wright, the keyboard player finally resulted in Wright leaving the band. Yet, friction over financial matters and composing credits continued among the other members. This almost signaled the end of one of the finest Rock groups ever as their output became sporadic and uneven. Thankfully, what continued were their fascinating, sold out live shows that were unparalled, both in production values and ticket rates!

My cousin Nissim Ezekiel Jr, who lives in the States and is an avid Classic Rock fan, recently emailed me about his views on the greatest live bands that he has seen. For sheer energy, it was the Stones, Queen, Who and probably the original Led Zeppelin, (He had seen only the Plant and Page concerts, not being lucky enough to catch them with Bonham and Jones), the most emotional, Paul McCartney, for most melodic, the Moody Blues. And as for the most out of the world, it was the super sensory experience of Pink Floyd!!

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende

http://nandu_bhende.tripod.com


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