Many years ago I became a fan of Pink Floyd. My first real recollection of the band was hearing “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” on the radio. I loved the song; what elementary school student wouldn’t? With regard to the sonic and aural enjoyment of the band, Pink Floyd provide layers upon layers of intricately woven lyrics and music to create a style uniquely their own. While for years I acquired and listened to the entire Floyd catalog, it was only after a certain age that I really understood two of their more famous albums - 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, and 1979's The Wall. While much is made, with good arguments, that Wish You Were Here is their best album. I’m not here to accept or refute that. The central theme of that album is loneliness and the spaces between friends. That’s more of a universal theme, applicable to any time in your life. TDSOTM and The Wall, however, hold unique spots with regard to where you are in your life. You may hear them and like/love the albums at any time, however you have to be a certain age to really understand them.
I listened to Pink Floyd in high school. I did so not only because I liked the music, but because it was what I was supposed to do. I hung out with partiers and partiers loved to listen to Floyd. I’ll let you interpret that however you wish. I also brought my love of Floyd to college, where I actually wrote one of my first papers about the band. I can’t really remember the name of the class, but I wrote a paper about how TDSOTM was a great album to get stoned to. I got a 100, so either the paper was well-written, or the professor was a head. Floyd albums were listened to on a fairly regular basis, but that wasn’t the only thing we listened to. My musical boundaries were greatly expanded and the Floyd found their way to the back burner.
After entering the work force sometime after college, I began to try my hand at this “adult” thing. Instead of going out every night, I’d go out a few nights (and never too late), I was keeping an eye on my 403b, purchasing Gold Toe™️ socks, and planning out my year. In other words, I was growing up. When I hit my late 20s, and acutally had something to lose for once in my life, I finally completely understood TDSOTM.
The themes of the album are what make it relatable to people entering the jarring world of adulthood. When you’ve always had a safety net in one form or another, you always know in the back of your mind that you’ll be fine - somebody will rescue you. However when the rent is due, when the fridge is empty, when you stand to lose your job if you screw up, when you work more than 50 or 60 hours a week and the bills are still killing you, when you look up and realize you’re no longer 21 or 22, and instead you’re cresting 30 - that’s when you really understand the album. The themes of time passing you by rather quickly, corporate greed, the paranoid feelings of messing up at work/in life, and the realization that childhood is over wash over you in one cruel wave of reality after another. TDSOTM is for when you finally become a grown up and you realize it’s a lot more frightening than you were ever told.
The Wall, however, is a much more insidious monster. This album finally really spoke to me after my 40th birthday. I had, for years, been withdrawing more from large scale get-togethers in favor of smaller scale affairs, in which I had more singular control over my destiny. I no longer wanted to go out in large groups, because I wouldn’t be driving and couldn’t just leave whenever I wanted. I did, however, master the art of the Irish Exit, so there’s one plus I suppose. I didn’t go out during the work week. In fact, I didn’t even drink during the work week anymore. My friends had grown into adulthood too, so the allure of the weekend bender was replaced with the unfortunate fact that we weren’t young anymore. In fact, I had everything I needed right at home. I had as much beer as I wanted without worrying about driving home or cab fare. I had two bathrooms with no line in which to wait. I had food. I had Xbox and Netflix and every other form of individual entertainment. I had also really begun to dislike people.
I don’t know why, but my tolerance for the stupidity of others became so low that I almost completely removed myself from social situations entirely. This isn’t to say that I never left the house after 40, but I sure as hell began to hate people a lot more. This insulation from the outside world obviously has its problems, but they weren’t (aren’t?) so bad that I went whole-hog back into socializing. Quite the opposite, in fact. I socialize when I have to or when I’m in charge of my own outcomes. For the most part I don’t want to be around anyone, but in those times when I do, I make sure to put myself in the best possible situation.
The themes of The Wall, themes of abandonment and isolation, resonate with me, and perhaps they do with you as well. People like me are at an age where deaths become inevitable. I graduated from high school with about 240 people, 15 of whom have died already. I have already lost a parent, I’ve lost a best friend, and I’ve lost acquaintances. I try not to do this as much, but I unfortunately go under the assumption that the majority of the people I meet or interact with are way stupider than I am. Sadly, this tree has borne fruit. We have become a dumbed-down society as a whole. Stupid people do stupid things, and if I stay behind my little wall then nobody with do stupid things to me. I find joy in life, but I find it on my terms. I don’t consider myself alone - quite the contrary. I just don’t find myself with people who aren’t like me. After 40, you may find yourself feeling like this, and I think it’s natural. I don’t think I’ll stay this way, but that remains to be seen. This is why I understand (and relate to) The Wall.
If you’re of the right age to understand these albums, they should speak to you. Give them another listen. For one thing, they’re phenomenal albums and they’re thematically relevant. My love of Pink Floyd is evident, and maybe now you can understand why I relate to them.