Pink Floyd releases its first album since 1994 in October. The Endless River will feature contributions from late keyboardist Rick Wright but not, apparently, from alive-and-quite-well bassist and longtime lyricist Roger Waters.
Pink Floyd has been gone for twenty years. They never quite went away.
A band that found radio airplay elusive throughout much of their career ironically enjoys in retirement heavy rotation on classic-rock stations. Despite the attempts of playlist authoritarians to shove “Money,” “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” and “Wish You Were Here” into the ears of listeners on an hourly basis, Pink Floyd fans don’t much appreciate singles. In an iTunes age, Pink Floyd remains a reminder of the album era.
Another misconception places Pink Floyd at 4:20 instead of seven or eight hours later. Some people get high to their music. I get drowsy. Nighttime is the right time.
The Stones provide the playlist for a party, The Who for a street brawl, and Pink Floyd for a dream. The ethereal quality of the music, the random sound effects, and lyrics that leave room for the imagination supply the soundtrack for sleep.
Remember when you were young? Old habits, like falling asleep to lullabies and stories, die hard. When The Shadow, Suspense, Dimension X, and other old-time-radio fare don’t put me out, Pink Floyd does.
Animals and Atom Heart Mother perform especially well as soporific. If I remain awake by the last notes of Wish You Were Here, a treat awaits. In a final poignant tribute to acid-casualty former frontman Syd Barrett in an album full of them, Richard Wright plays a few notes of “See Emily Play,” the trippy nursery rhyme that hit #6 on the British pop charts at about the time that the crippling effects of lysergic acid diethylamide hit Barrett’s brain.
Like Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon saves the best for last. If “The Great Gig in the Sky” doesn’t end awake on a beautiful note, then “Brain Damage/Eclipse” will on the flipside. The album closer for Meddle finds Pink Floyd at their most Pink Floyd. “Echoes” not only captures the mellow ambience that so characterizes the group’s sound, but lyrically speaks of “lullabies” and “waking eyes” and “a million bright ambassadors of morning” summoning a sleepyhead to “rise.” In my deconstructionist interpretation, the 23:29 epic persuades me to collapse on my bed.
Pink Floyd doesn’t have the market cornered on bedtime music. Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, The Cure’s Disintegration, and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks sublimely sing to sleep. But no artist’s oeuvre so gives the listener as pleasant a passport to the pillow as Pink Floyd.
One grasps why sleepers and stoners gravitate to Pink Floyd. Superficial similarities exist between going to bed and going to the bong. They both can lead to loss of consciousness, fantastic delusions, and mumbling. Crucially, though, sleep rejuvenates and drugs drain. Sleep is such a rewarding experience that anything associated with it can’t help but grow in popularity. Narcotics are such a punishing pastime that once freed of their enslavement one can’t help but want to declare independence from anything associated with them. For this reason, Pink Floyd plays as more of a lifetime addiction for the sleepers.
The unexpected news that the group conjuring up surreal images of flying pigs, marching hammers, and mysterious prisms would release a new album in 2014, and that it would feature the six-years dead keyboardist integral to the band’s sound, startled me from slumber. With a fortnight’s worth of the group’s LPs to send me to the sandman, the bedtime story/song ritual—which I have stayed true to for forty years—had become a bit of a snoozefest. A fifteenth sleeping-aid album should liven up the monotonous process of scheduled dormancy.