When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it.
The Child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.
If there need be telling, Pink Floyd were an English rock band that initially earned limited fame with their psychedelic space rock music in the late 1960`s. Then they hit the big time with arguably, the most perfect rock album ever made…..Dark Side of the Moon. They went on to produce a string of prog-rock albums which were notable for their insightful, philosophic lyrics, sonic experimentation and ground breaking elaborate live shows. To date the band have sold over 200 million albums, including 75 million in the States alone. They became, and perhaps still are, the world`s greatest rock band despite not having made an album since 1994. Pink Floyd is a name that still evokes a misty eyed, messianic thousand yard stare from rock aficionados. Just to put my name firmly in the frame here; I would quite happily sell my house in order to finance the humongous cost of a ticket if they ever reassembled for another world tour.
Mark Blake`s book Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, although drawing on copious interviews with the notoriously egocentric band members, has also wisely almost a hundred interviews with the band`s friends, roadies, producers, designers, former house mates and university colleagues. It`s an incredibly detailed, nerdy and essential look at the band`s turbulent history.
It`s a history of drug abuse; founder member Syd Barret`s alarming slide from musically brilliant and hyper intelligent human being into a drug addled, sponge brained specimen suffering a brain burn out of stupendous proportions; through the creative explosion of the 1970`s with a string of ground breaking records, to creative tensions within the band which eventually overflowed into deep personal animosity and the inevitable break up after the fractious The Wall tour in 1980-81, when the band lost most of their cash on an over bloated stage production.
There are lots of little nuggets of information in the book, one of which explains how important and integral the late Rick Wright was to the band`s soundscape. Sound engineers, ex managers and band members speak of Rick`s essential input; to such an extent that on Rick Wright`s death in 2008, David Gilmore described him as “……the sound of Pink Floyd.”
Comfortably Numb is no slender, docile fan worshipping leaflet, it runs to over 400 pages and gives the main protagonists and those who knew them their own points of views, and then letting readers make up their own minds as to which camp they stand in on the fractious in-fighting which slowly destroyed the band, resulting in Roger Waters declaring the band “….a spent force” in 1985, and resorting to legal action to try and stop the remaining band members carrying on as Pink Floyd without him.
Mark Blake`s massive musical tome has been acknowledged as the final word on Pink Floyd from their obscure Cambridge beginnings in the early sixties, through the removal, and death of it`s members, musical reinvention and global domination, a bitter legal divorce and eventual triumphant re-formation for Live8 in 2005, 24 long years after their last live appearance together.
There is plenty of competition for Pink Floyd books, but Mark Blake`s epic re-telling of the legendary musical cult that is the inimitable and truly great Pink Floyd is up there as one of the most essential books on the subject. It`s a highly recommended read.