It was one afternoon in the year I was in Grade 3 when a family friend, visiting along with other friends for one of those regular drinking sessions with my father, brought a cassette tape of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” A devoted music enthusiast as I knew I already was at that age, I eagerly awaited my turn to hold the record in my hands as the visitor proudly passed it around for everyone to behold.
My impatience, however, was not so much because of my interest in what music could be lying in wait for our hearing as the mystique the very simple, almost plain album cover exuded: the white brick wall that took every space of the cover was so unfussy and antiseptic it was unsettling.
When the tape finally reached me, and having seen enough of the art when the record went from one pair of hands to the next, I ran through the song titles in the liner notes. Titles like “Young Lust,” “Vera,” “Another Brick in the Wall,” and, especially, “Comfortably Numb,” could only add to the feelings of wonder and disquiet that I, a nine-year-old boy then, was already brimming with at that moment. And I had not listened to the music yet.
So when, after making sure the tape was rewound all the way to the beginning, the visitor pressed play and “In the Flesh” came on, with the ominous banging of Nick Mason’s drums and the doleful, low-register wails David Gilmour was making his guitar let out, I was blown away. What could a kid do?
That afternoon, we listened to the entirety of “The Wall,” my father and his drinking buddies drunk from the alcohol and me from the music. But unlike the old folks, I was not wasted. What the songs did for me was that they seemed to have unlocked a part of my being, young as I was, where something visceral existed. (Or, does feeling that way count as being wasted? Anyway…)
I didn’t get to listen to Pink Floyd since that day, though, at least not for a very long time. As a kid, I was impressionable, so I listened mostly to what MTV told me to, and in a way that was good. Everybody needs a lesson on diversity, after all. I acquainted myself, to varying degrees, with the boy band sound, hip hop, metal, alternative rock, rap metal and emo. All brought me good times, one way or another, and I still listen to some of the music in those styles from time to time.
In college, nudged by some nameless force I couldn’t’ resist, I went back in time, discovering classic sounds I wasn’t very familiar with, such as the blues, jazz and soul. I became especially enamored with the blues, and it’s what I gravitate toward to this day as a guitar player. During this time, I also got around to rediscovering music my parents and uncles listened to when I was kid, like Pinoy rock, folk music and classic rock. And that’s how I got back to Pink Floyd.
It was in 2006, more than ten years after my first dalliance with the music, when I found Pink Floyd again, in the form of a pirated DVD. The DVD, which a friend let me borrow after hearing about my growing fondness for music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, was a copy of the “PULSE” concert video the band released in 1994.
Because I remembered “Comfortably Numb” the most from that initiation some ten years earlier, I almost instinctively played it first. The lyrics, the chords, the singing, the instrumentation, the concert’s choreographed light display and, most especially, David Gilmour’s taleful guitar solo timed with the movement and eventual blossoming of the wicked spaceship of a mirror ball hanging from above the arena – it was all magical, like every good thing from the past, the present and the future decided to converge in that place at that moment to please everyone that could see and feel them. It was a very sweet dream.
Try as I might now, there is no way I can forget about the band again. I have listened to and got lost in every one of their songs throughout their many eras and sonic incarnations, from the psychedelic, through the progressive, and to last year’s “Endless River.” I have marked many of my possessions, physical and digital, with their insignia. Perhaps these things are what the regular diehard fan would do, and yet those identifiers are too material for what experiencing Pink Floyd could mean. It’s visceral.