Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comfortably Numb



I find myself becoming mildly obsessed with this Pink Floyd song. It's extremely well known - probably their best-known song in fact, up there in best plank-spanking polls and so on - but flew way under my radar when it was first released in 1979; although the hippy living in the flat beneath mine back in Bristol had it on constant replay I was so not into the whole concept album thing back then, and I've never seen the film. But I was boxset-streaming The Sopranos from start to finish recently , and a snippet of 'Comfortably Numb' (the live version with Van Morrison, from The Departed soundtrack) was playing in Christopher Moltisanti's SUV just before he crashed. Since then, I've been listening to various versions, and finding that the dialogue between a doctor and a pop star who needs chemical enhancement to get going has been helping me find my way inside a character who had previously been frustratingly opaque. Underneath the bombast, there's a fragile wistfulness, a longing for things lost, a revelation half-glimpsed and barely understood. Perfect for the posthuman condition I'm trying to evoke.

So far I like this version best. If only for the flowering-medusa-spaceship thing, and the crowd's transcendent rapture.

9 Comments:

Blogger TonyC said...

1970? Shurely shome mishtake...

'Comfortably Numb' is from The Wall, so it was released in 1979. It slipped under my radar back then too...

November 24, 2009 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Yeah, Paul - it was first released in 1979 ;)
Film "The Wall" is impressive but depressive ;) Anyway, Alan Paker is great director and the film is worth watching.

November 24, 2009 1:13 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Oops, typo! Meant 1979, honest. Now fixed - thanks for the headsup...

November 24, 2009 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you'll like this video too

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/11/video-saturns-spectacular-aurora-in-action/

November 24, 2009 9:44 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

I like it a lot! Amazing how dynamic 'lifeless' worlds are; or rather, it's an amazing privilege to be witnesses to the exploration of the incredible range and variety of planetary landscapes and weather.

November 25, 2009 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Al R said...

I wouldn't call myself a huge Floyd fan but that "distant ship's smoke on the horizon" bit is one of my favorite lines in all of rock. And I do love this song; it's easily my favorite of anything they did after about 1975.

November 25, 2009 3:14 PM  
Blogger Adam Roberts Project said...

It's a great, great song. A version, really, of Wordsworth's 'Intimations of Immortality' ode.

No. Really. 'When I was a child I had a fe-ever, My hands felt just like two baloons.'

November 25, 2009 4:21 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

That feverish vastening, and distancing out to the horizon, all part of the becoming posthuman vibe, for me. Also, this couplet: the child is grown/the dream is gone. It's all terrifically overblown, of course, but I need a degree of that(the problem is to avoid bombast).

November 25, 2009 5:46 PM  
Blogger Oliver said...

There's a musical box version on spotify...

November 26, 2009 3:24 PM  

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