Friday, June 26, 2020

Top Ten Godhaunted songs #1: "Wish You Were Here"

This is my first original blog post in YEARS, and inspired by a video my amazing friend  St. Stacy posted a video of a neighbor
Stacy and I celebrating our students graduating.

of hers singing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" on his porch, as (I assume)  a kind of gift to the neighborhood during this eerie "shelter in place."

Many of us are on our codvid quarantine porches wishing

                                                 was "here";

Even if it's Chris Cornell-style, almost not caring who picks up the distress signal of a  wishful wistful, atheistic theistic,  prayerful unprayer.:

On a cobweb afternoon in a room full of emptiness
By a freeway, I confess I was lost in the pages

Of a book full of death, reading how we'll die alone
Of a book full of death, reading how we'll die alone
Of a book full of death, reading how we'll die alone
And if we're good, we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go

In your house, I long to beRoom by room, patientlyI'll wait for you there, like a stoneI'll wait for you there, alone

          And on my deathbed, I will pray to the gods and the angels

Like a pagan to anyone who will take me to heavenTo a place I recall, I was there so long agoThe sky was bruised, the wine was bled, and there you led me on
But that's another song.
Or is it?

Chris Cornell  and Roger Waters may be praying to the same You that they wish were here, and that they hope they meet there.

Roger's skies in "Wish" were pain-blue, and Chris' in the song above were bruised
But the song...and the Canopy Maker..remain the same.
Even the Good Book darkness-skies are God's canopy.
And the Floyd all of them.. is dark.

But the  canopy is there...even if appearing bruised.

I challenged Stacy to post  a few reasons...any reason ..why she likes this song.
I can't wait to hear.  She many even know things about the song I don't..and I have been tracking it for 45 years or so,  I bet she even knows about the often-unnoticed  (and much-debated ) throat-clearing cough  towards the beginning that I always hears as a guy waking up and turning on the radio to hear this song, and  eventually play along to it.

 And that man has been me ever since.

To cough is to pray.

My reasons for liking the song are  many.
And some were formed  before Stacy was born.
But I don't even know if I can use the word "like."

  • Or love.
  • Or "hate"
  • Or  "love."
  • Or love/hate.

Though they all work.

Maybe the word I need  is "need."

I mean, we all need help putting words to our prayers at times.
Even, especially when the prayer written...doesn't seem to be getting through..

And this song was an integral part of the prevenient-grace mixtape that led me to Jesus (tied with this  24-minute hymn from the Book Of Genesis--I mean, Band of Genesis ),  and part of the strange and heteroclite canon/cannon  of laments  and imprecations that keep me tethered to this Jesus.

Stacy, I might not know you..or Jesus..without this song!
(Do I love or know Jesus?)

And  this blog post is also serving a  public challenge to Stacy to write more; even blog.  Her social media posts can be stunningly moving.  My post today may only be so to me, but I dedicate it to her.

This song.
Where to start?
If by some tragic circumstance you have never encountered this song, may I counterintuitively (Why  not go the unobvious route?) suggest you sample this version filmed in my favorite city, as the song is sensitively interpreted performed by two Jewish men.  If I had been there, and stumbled upon this scene, I would've probably been so transfixed that I'd be transfigured..or still there.  To me, another Jewish Man is always active in the  music of streets of That City.

See you after the break.

Original version. 

When this song came out, and my friends and I first heard it cranked loud on Dan's huge JBL speakers: 

no words.

But let me try several.

I mean, if I can't at least occasionally articulate  the  "inarticulate speech of the heart" about one of my top ten  "Godhaunted songs" (Hi Happy Lee, your song is next)

As most Floydfans know, the album this is found on, and this song, is partly/largely about/addressed to  former  band member Syd Barrett,

As is much (all?) of their material.

Barrett had left the band/been forced out due to his  drug-induced mental ilness, The band tells this chilling story

Syd Barrett's tortured spirit was already hovering over Pink Floyd's ninth studio album, even before he unexpectedly crashed the sessions for Wish You Were Here on June 5, 1975.
Both the emotive title track and shimmering, psychedelic epic "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" were inspired by Barrett, the band's former frontman, with chief writer Roger Waters meditating on themes of isolation and inward escape. So, when the long-absent musician – portly, with distant gaze, shaved head and eyebrows – randomly arrived during a mixing session for "Diamond," the coincidence reduced the band to a mixture of shock and depression.

It's not as if Barrett, Floyd's co-founder and the driving creative force behind their debut LP, 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, left the band on good terms. His mental instability, erratic stage behavior and addiction to LSD made him a liability, and guitarist-singer David Gilmour was brought in as a replacement.

....Pink Floyd were confused by his presence, assuming he had to be a crew member. But when Gilmour eventually identified their former bandmate, Waters broke down in tears. That June day also happened to be Gilmour's wedding day, so Barrett wandered into the guitarist's wedding reception at EMI. He left without telling anyone, disappearing as strangely as he'd arrived. The experience had a profound impact on the band, particularly Waters, who even incorporated a lyrical reference to the early Barrett-penned single "See Emily Play" on Wish You Were Here.
"I'm very sad about Syd, [though] I wasn't for years," Waters said in 1975. "For years, I suppose he was a threat because of all that bollocks written about him and us. Of course, he was very important and the band would never have f_____ started without him, because he was writing all the material. It couldn't have happened without him, but on the other hand, it couldn't have gone on with him. He may or may not be important in rock 'n' roll anthology terms, but he's certainly not nearly as important as people say in terms of Pink Floyd. So, I think I was threatened by him."
Gilmour, who co-wrote the music to both the title track and "Shine On," has trouble separating these classic songs from his memories of the former Floyd icon. "Although 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' is specifically about Syd and 'Wish You Were Here' has a broader remit," Gilmour said in the 2012 documentary Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here, "I can't sing it without thinking about Syd."
Finally,  now you are primed to read the lyrics, and weigh who they addressed/redressed to?  Who is your Syd?

You can "never again sing it without thinking about" your "randomly arrived" Syd.


So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we  found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here....

From Song Facts:
  • This song is about the detached feeling most people go through life with. It is a commentary on how people cope with the world by withdrawing physically, mentally, or emotionally. In the commentary of The Wall, Roger Waters states that the inspiration was Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett and his ordeal with schizophrenia.
  • Roger Waters has said this song was based on a poem he wrote about Syd Barrett's fall from reality. It was said that Syd's friends would lace his coffee with LSD, which eventually lead to his mental breakdown. >>
  • This was a rare case of the Pink Floyd primary songwriters Roger Waters and David Gilmour mutually collaborating on a song - they rarely wrote together. Gilmour had the opening riff written and was playing it in the studio at a fast pace when Roger Waters heard it and asked him to play it slower. The song built from there, with the pair writing the music for the chorus and verses together, and Waters adding the lyrics.
  • The song reflected the feeling of the band while they were recording the album. Waters felt they were not putting a full effort into the recording sessions.
  • When this song starts, it sounds like it is coming from an AM radio somewhere in the distance. It represents the distance between the listener and the music.

Perhaps the most important part and punch of the lyric is the ellipsis; hemistiche, at the end..
Will the wished-for  "you/"You" ever be here?

Who or what is "you"?

Roger Waters has left this open to interpretation, but in various interviews over the years has seen it as

  • Syd
  • a lover or friend
  • his bandmates

and a fascinating and compelling candidate that only hit him later in life;


The Cure can relate.
And so can you.
And Sudzi.

And Soren:

"It is essentially owing to her, to my melancholy and to my money that I became an author.
Now with God's help, I shall be myself.
I believe that Christ will help me to be victorious
over my melancholy" -Soren Kierkegaard ,Journal, 4/19/1848

 I  also dare to believe, even if Waters doesn't believe or admit it..

The You is also
partially God.

Of course at some points in the lyric that You doesn't make sense  (God a  fearful lost soul..

The You is also

Every You in every song  eventually is.
Every wish  ultimately is for the  hereness and nearness of One who doesn't seem here.

Why can't the onmipresence be manifest?

As I once preached from Psalm 22:
"The Lord Be With You...Even When He's Not

But knowing Floyd, if it is a prayer..

atheism, cynicism and nihilism often win..

"There is no dark side of the moon really.  As a matter of fact it's all dark," 

"Is there anybody out there?"  they once prayed.

                     The expected  answer is no.

Same with the chilling  first set of questions in "Wish".

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

They are not essay answers.
One senses they are multiple choice
  B"Hell, no."

B being "right".

But I'm opting for a C: " Both A and B .

Sometimes fuzzy sets are the only
way to pray.

Apophatic is cataphatic.

It's often more classically encouraging to hear U2's  Bono  (Who gives us permission and a decoder to "Turn each song into a prayer")  ask the biblical question "How long?'' since we know the question has a deadline, and is not a dead end.

Maybe Pink Floyd is asking the same question, but from the dark side of the faith.

Such is the hardwon faith that does not bypass lament.

 U2's Dead Man might even Wake Up.
Floyd's  deity might remain dead.

But thank God  that God is bigger than authorial intent.
(And bigger than the Boogie Man and the devil, for that matter.)

Waters also may well have meant this as not just about TO or ABOUT Syd, but
 FROM Syd, how HE felt towards
the band (or himself..or God)

I was not yet a committed Christian when I first heard this song; I don't know what you would have called me when the pictured  guys (I'm the one in the T shirt,  And obviously, there is one non-guy with us, but she wasn't part of our gang) in this Upstate New York circle of friends  first experienced it.

I felt it/heard it as my lonely  being awakened,
 It was addressed to myself
                          to my friends 
                                            to Syd
                                                 to a partner I hadn't met yet
and to an unknown God that I somehow knew.

I am intrigued that Waters tended to picture the "two lost souls in a fishbowl" as
two fish, but each in a  separate bowl (this is  perhaps authenticated by cover art on a later single version).

I hadn't felt it that way.

Being two lost souls in the same bowl was lonely enough.  
But at least the two were in it together.
Terrifying to be trapped in a bowl alone, able to see your soulmate in an adjacent bowl.
Year after year.

Covid quarantine, indeed

But until we admit we often live this hellonearth in our "there"  ("Can you tell heaven from hell?."...
We may never experience God as here.

Wish you were here,

  • Syd
  • friends
  • enemies
  • Dave
  • God
It's all in how you read it,

PS Maybe just watch this guy in video. He's crazy, but he may weel say most of what I just tried to sat better than I just did!: --
Other Pink Floyd posts here.
See related ed "labels" (keyword "topix ) below

Sunday, April 19, 2020

"How does your faith interact with your music?"

How does your faith interact with your music?
Eric Campuzano: 
"It does not interact;
                                                                    it is my music."
Link, full interview

Other Prayer Chain-related posts here

Thursday, January 30, 2020


It has been hugely productive, revelatory, and (even) fun to, as part of a class that several others and I teach, have students plot out (on the whiteboard) their timeline.