…Oh, By the Way, Which One’s Pink?

December 8, 2018 0 By Chris Canton

I often like to watch Youtube videos of  interviews with some of our greatest rock icons, whose songs I knew growing up- I have a curiosity of what they are doing today following the enormous success  they had during their tenor as one of the biggest in their day.  So, for whatever reason, I became curious about the band members from Pink Floyd and wanted to put to rest questions I only half heard about without really thinking about it much– For them there’s that issue with the original member, Syd Barrett, the front man early on who most agree set the stage for their unique instrumentation and melody arrangements.  And then I wondered what exactly was their greatest album,  (and happened to be also one of the greatest selling albums of all time),  and what of their albums had succeeded it…– I had a suspicion it was probably “Dark Side of the Moon”  which was right.  So then there was the aftermath where they were sort of floundering trying to package another big successful album but were kind of at odds with which songs to keep in and which to hold out- seems like they at least had settled on what they explain is the theme of absence.  There was a tribute to Syd Barrett which fans know as “Shine on, You Crazy Diamond”.   For those who haven’t been schooled on that deal, basically it describes how in 1968, they were really turning a lot of heads in the music industry as a band to pay attention to.  The members say it was undoubtedly Syd that had that unique character and talent that drove them to new heights with his unique guitar playing and song arranging talents. And then, unfortunately as LSD was being widely experimented with by many of the youth of that time period, he got extremely caught up in it and was hanging out with a group apart from the music recording responsibilities which took a back seat.  On one occasion where he is needed, he fails to turn up, and a lot of money was wasted.  Situations like that had been happening more to the point where this time is was the last straw.  When he finally showed a few days later, he had been suddenly unable to play his guitar for more than a few moments and they say, he was not the same man.  He was unable to function and concentrate.  The LSD, one of them said, basically burned out his brain to where there was nothing left.

And so, in the aftermath, the band continued without him, all agreeing what a shame it had been that he just couldn’t hang in there and contribute in any meaningful way with the responsibilities required of the band. Ultimately, he spent about a week in a mental facility, before being released and coming to live with his mother and sister.  And that was that for him.  He went on to try his hand at art, but never was able to return to music.  He made an attempt on an occasion to visit with the band members a few years later but just could not play and was not even a semblance of the man he was originally known for.  So on to their album, “Wish you were here”, which, of course featured that mega hit by the same name which almost anyone who has any familiarity with the band, may have heard or recognize.

There was a cut from the album entitled, Have a Cigar, which in England,  where the band is from, was also released as a single.  Included in the song is the line that reads:  “…oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?”  Now, for those who have heard the name of the band, and may remember vaguely that they put on a great light show and had music that included heavy use of a moog synthesizer, you might be wondering, yes, which one is Pink??  Well, the answer to that is that there is no Pink, nor Floyd for that matter!  And so that line appears in the song, because it is basically about the hypocrisy of the record industry; and of how little value they even place on who its band members individually!  There seemed to be no respect given to an individual band’s artistry or ability to express themselves the way they prefer- unless of course, you pass it by the executives and ask their permission- It was, afterall, regarded and accepted as the way it is if they expected to get paid the big dollars (the way they thought the formula best insured those big dollars would flow towards them)!  So if the biggest thing are pop tunes that last 4 minutes, and their record label who had other bands signed on, had been enjoying success down that road, then this applied to the Pink Floyd money machine under that label — which was, that no one who had a business empire to run expected to give much credence to the identity with the music their fans had known them for and what it stood for. (At least it would not have been a priority in the values they held as an individual band.   Moreover, if they were working hard at producing a themed album and forming a consensus  about which songs they want to add in or leave out, they had to answer to the executives with which they had a contract with and had the final say!  Thus, the soul of those Pink Floyd, in a round-about way, wanted to release the very essence of the way things were in the industry by coming out with Wish You Were Here.  If you are to refer to the cover jacket, it features two men in a back alley between buildings wearing business suits, shaking hands.  Only one of them is on fire– to signify that one of them is getting burned!  So you have this song on that album, Have a Cigar, which includes that line:  …And by the way, which one is Pink?”

I come away with reads like these and think to myself how does this affect me in my everyday life?  I probably don’t have to assume I will be having to deal with anything like that– But on second thought, I hold the opinion, that yes, in fact, we exactly have to deal with things like that– It is a part of life that once we recognize, we can minimize putting ourselves into positions like that.  Who do we answer to?  Many of us answer to our families and our bosses at work mostly.  Others our athletic teams or coaches who shape us.  But we need to know ourselves first, and know that when we wish to contribute artistically, or intellectually, or socially with things of substance and of redeeming value, we will flourish if we can do so.  We will otherwise simply exist and often not realize our full potential.  Under almost any circumstance, we can control our destiny to a point.  If we wanna do (fill in the blanks) in life, then it helps to know what the social status quo is with regards to that activity or endeavor.  By knowing it, we can either agree with it and go along and that is fine, or we can work to free the limitations someone who’s gone before us may have unintentionally or unknowingly placed on that.  Or perhaps even purposely to try and to keep at bay all competitors.  As we go through life, some of us are more comfortable being a part of something they enjoy, and contributing in their own way to its continuation.  Others may see an industry or mechanism as a model for which they can express their own creative outlets in the way they want to and thus, have an expectation of eventual success. Success doesn’t usually come to one by itself or accidentally.  You happened to either knowing or unknowingly been on the right path that best insured the interests of all it affected.  Society, after all rewards those for whom it serves.  So if the masses can find something of value and more are in agreement with that way or process or truth, then its good to be aware of this as a standard to strive and maintain for as long as that ride continues.  For just as everything changes, so does the way things are done– and generally it is for the better or for more efficiency or pleasurable benefit…

The road less traveled is meant to be a marker that recognizes our uniqueness and creative ability to further the benefits to an individual and/or, to a larger degree, a society. That “model” builds up and recognizes the value of self-identity.  By doing our own thing,  if we are doing it, it is probably something we enjoy and the chances are others will as well.  The roads many will travel, just like interstates are still good because it is the best thing going– that is until someone using that model comes up with an even better idea.  Maybe if the ingredients are changed then we got something new, huh!  What a concept.  Take an interstate.  You can’t call it the road less traveled, but you can bet it is one of the most efficient ways of getting from point A to point B or else they would not be so crowded.  There would not be as many service stations.  So is the road less traveled (literally) not as good?  Well, depends on the purpose-  So there is one individual with a new way of transporting himself from point A to point B and he enjoys it immensely.  He figures out how to deal with the infrequent gas stations and proceeds along.  He benefits the society by preserving something we all value –  maybe insuring the habitats of the wildlife there.  Maybe by bringing them out and into the open for others to see and learn about…  Whatever that mechanism might be that benefits those willing to reward him, he will have carved out his niche in the world doing what he enjoys doing and, BONUS, he is recognized for that  — maybe even “widely-so!”

So,  finally, how does this tie into the Pink Floyd folks? They exposed a limitation; that limitation being a threat to their identity as to what their band stood for.  They turned the very essence of the limitation as a further creative success by directly confronting it because they knew they could.  They themselves knew their success was of their own making, first and foremost.  And knowing themselves, and those that they wanted to bring pleasure to were many, based on the success they enjoyed early on before the record industrial complex was shaping up, they took their own path less traveled and trudged forward, difficult though it was — their difficulty concentrated on challenging their own creativity to top even the mega success they enjoyed from Dark Side of the Moon.  Were they the happier for it in the long run?  I think if you review some Youtube videos, you will probably agree that Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, etc.  all seem to be pretty content in life, flourishing and still doing what they set out to do in their youths – creating as artists, by definition.