Comfortably Numb

 

A slow boat to China creeping southward from Keelung to Manila, slicing through the inside of the South China Sea, on the outside of the typhoon season, a long time ago.

 

Alone, together on a traditional but unique honeymoon, cocooned within a quaint two and a half thousand tonne refrigerated rust bucket carrying Tasmanian apples to quarter of a million anticipating South East Asian mouths, guests of the owners, mere supernumeraries, my love and I.  

 

With the next discharge port a week away there is not much to do but wallow in that brief punctuation between adolescence and reality. That child free zone, where we, the liberated baby boomers who had missed the wars, had the freshness of youth, the education, the jobs, the means, and of course the pill, benefit from the legacy of the unknown soldiers whose restless spirits drift through the deep vibrant blue water currents and over the lush tropical landscape as they search for home.

 

Just before lunch, or was it just after elevenses, I lie on an old cane couch moved to a bow / stern aspect so I can enjoy the slow rhythmical pitch as the ship chugs on, spreading flying fish laterally across a molten mirror disturbed only by relentless fused metal plates metal driven by a big brass screw.

 

The cassette player, on extended loan from the second engineer, has lapped up the first side of my pirated tape of Pink Floyd’s new release, ‘The Wall’, so I click it to side two. Vera Lynn precedes what is to become one of the many Waters / Gilmore anthems. I am hooked. This is the purest form of bliss.

 

There is no pain, you are receding

A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon

You are only coming through in waves

Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying

 

When I was I child I caught a fleeting glimpse

Out of the corner of my eye

I turned to look but it was gone

I can not put my finger on it now

The child is grown the dream is gone

 

I…..have become comfortably numb.

 

 

 

Roger Waters 

 

The Wall Live

 

Rod Laver Arena: Wed.  8  Feb  2012 – 8:00pm

 

 As a spritely sixty eight year old Roger Waters takes centre stage in a piece of quality theatre that remains true to it’s origins as a masterpiece co written with David Gilmore in the late 1970’s but has morphed to take on a contemporary perspective through technological, political and social change.

 

His disdain for the act of war, it’s waste, the legacy of pain and hardship to ongoing generations and it’s overall futility remains rock solid. First overtly manifested through his apparent alter ego ‘Pink’ in the Alan Parker directed 1982 block buster film ‘The Wall’ and then so hauntingly described in the chilling reality of ‘When The Tigers Broke Free’.

 

Although there was not the biomass and extravagance of thePotsdamexperience (there can only be one demolition of theBerlinwall) coupled with the reality that it was not the Floyd, mattered not. Each component was enthusiastically greeted and applauded.

 

The punters were diversely drawn from across the demograph. As with his previous tour in 2007 two generational pairs and groups were apparent. Around me were several fathers with sons, obviously conceived well after ‘The Wall’. I sat with my 28 year old daughter, a one third share holder in my children’s sponsorship of the two tickets but a half share holder in the execution of the project due to my wife’s apathy to all matters Floyd. She was introduced to the wall in her childhood in a manner akin to a child developing a chronic affliction from a passive smoking due to belligerent parental behaviour.

 

I, through observation as well as gut feeling, sensed that the young ones were quite familiar with the music but not with the overt intensity of the political over (and under) tones of the concept. The subsequent uniform intensity of their individual reaction, no matter how varied their own uniforms were, gave me great encouragement. This I needed as I was aware of a certain unease within, throughout the performance. With hindsight I believe this is due to a reaction to change and loss of a past which subconsciously has been fermenting and waiting for the right moment to show. I suspect there were others like me dispersed throughout the arena.

 

The reaction to Comfortably Numb was however uniform throughout the entire audience. A signature anticipated and enjoyed by all for the same reason.

 

The quality of Walters’ intellect, creativity, honesty and endurance was clearly manifested in the production but the choreography of his movement, whether by design or incidental, to me was unconvincing. He can write and perform but he can not act. Then again there are many of his cohorts who have succumbed to the life style and are long gone. The subject of ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ Sid Barrett comes to mind.

 

The significance of the encore, the perennial Australian anthem to class struggle, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, may have gone unnoticed by some, but not me. To finish with a statement underlining his attitude towards haves and have nots was profound. To hear it sung by a pack of Poms in such an unpretentious and respectful manner was reassuring. He nailed it.

 

While on the subject of corporate greed, big bucks and haves and have nots I wonder how much he is worth and where he puts it all. The entrance tithe, even up into the Gods, was not insignificant, and the memorabilia price a little dodgy. Tee shirts were however good value at a ‘lobster’ a piece.  Once a grumpy always a grumpy I suppose.

 

Footnote.

 

“When The Tigers Broke Free”

It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black ‘forty four.
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn.
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while.
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives.

And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, I recall,
In the form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.

It was dark all around.
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free.
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company C.
They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that’s how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.

 

Comments

  1. Phanto – “The Wall” remains one of the biggest, if not the biggest, musical influence on me. I found the movie disturbing and brilliant.

    I still play this album regularly. The start of “Is There Anybody Out There?” still spooks me. And the little girl’s voice saying “Look Mummy there’s an aeroplane up in the sky” at the start of “Goodbye Blue Sky”. And the line “Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls?” in “Mother”.

    This album can only be played up loud. Anything less is a total waste of time.

    The guitar riff in Comfortably Numb is immensely under rated. To me its the best of all time.

  2. Off the Wall, but relaterd to Waters, have you guys ever tried the Dark Side Of The Moon / Wizard of Oz coupling?

  3. Andrew Fithall says:

    Phantom,

    As I read this I have the radio on and am listening to (up loud) The Wooden Shjips playing one of their long shoegazey numbers I enjoy so much. And the radio programmer is Stephen Walker AKA The Ghost. It is all a bit spooky.

    But I have to now switch to 774 (ABC) because Litza is about to come on and give one of his spin commentaries.

  4. Agreed, Dips.
    The two guitar solos in “Comfortably Numb” have no peer !
    Love “the Wall”.
    Favourite track: “Nobody Home”….lyrics are fantastic…….

  5. Damo Balassone says:

    Great stuff Phanto! Must have been a thrill to be there. I have always found “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall” beautiful, atmospheric albums. Where as the first is a tribute to Barrett, I like how “The Wall” describes Waters own descent into some kind of self-imposed exile i.e. The Wall, which I imagine he slowly built up around him, after dealing with father’s death in WW2, horrific school experiences, overbearing mother, and, later on, fame, etc. Each event being another brick in the wall. Great concept.

    By the way, and this will probably sound sacrilegious to the Floyd faithful, but doesn’t Gilmour’s guitar solo in “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” sound awfully like Knopfler’s solo in Dire Straits “Single Handed Sailor”?

  6. Not sure if I know the Knopfler piece Damo, but I do know that the said Gilmore solo was first done in the late ’70’s. When was the Knopfler one.

    ‘Echoes’ on ‘Echoes’ is very mid-night, open fire, drambuie, and warm breathed woman ish.

  7. Damo Balassone says:

    Phanto, I looked it up & according to wikipedia, both songs were released in 1979, but the Dire Staits album (Communique) was released at the start of the year, so slightly before. Maybe I have a bad ear, but cripes! to me those guitar solos sound very similiar. Maybe Gilmour and Knopfler were mates?

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