For most people, this is a difficult thing to truly know. I mean, think about how many songs are out there. How can you possibly narrow it down to that ONE song that altered your perception, changed your fate, opened up your mind? Woke you up to a new world forever? It depends on a significant event perhaps. Or maybe it was repeated exposure to a song on the radio. Was it at a concert? Maybe during a music class lesson? For me it always seems to relate to my father and I listening to classic rock on the radio in one of his pickup trucks while I was growing up.
Whether we were driving to a ball game, camping trip, vacation or just around the corner to the store; classic rock was playing either through a cassette tape, cd player or simply on the radio. At home on the stereo pumping through vintage Allegro speakers, he would crank out records and cds of various artists. Most of these consisted of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, CCR, The Cars, ZZ Top and finally Pink Floyd. Something about the latter struck me the most.
I remember being about 5 or 6 years old in the back seat of my mom’s Plymouth Horizon. One of her many errands she would run during the day while I am intently listening to the radio. Usually it was WLS in Chicago AM radio. This disco sounding, rock jam song would play every now and then. It was actually Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd. At that age, this song sounded really strange and yet quite interesting even though my young brain couldn’t quite understand its meaning. Then in 1987 another song by the Floyd was on MTV and the radio again. This one was entitled Learning To Fly. Another bizarre and artistic song by this enigmatic band that I did not know much about.
At age 11, I still was not collecting music really other than occasionally trading tapes with neighborhood friends or hearing what my dad played. It wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 90’s that I started feeling that “change” within me. This occurred in 2 stages. Stage one was when I was in his truck one day (I can’t remember the specific year but I guess I would have been in my early teens) probably when I was 13 or 14 and he played Dark Side of The Moon. This album blew my mind. Clocks ticking and then erupting into this loud chaos followed by these percussions keeping a steady beat with wailing guitars and these deep prophetic lyrics about “Time” and life & death. My dad played that album a lot and that song Time really spoke to me the most. Slide guitars and great vocals were enough to sell me on the band finally.
The second stage occurred a few years later. In the summer of 1994, my dad surprised me and bought 2 tickets for us to go see Pink Floyd live. It was my first concert ever. I was 18 years old. I was so pumped. The band takes the stage. I am among a crowd of 50,000 people with my dad screaming and shouting. They open up with this cosmic sounding, very British and aggressively massive sounding pop song. It was really rocking! I never heard it before. I was actually so turned on by this song! I kept thinking,”what was that?” While the concert was great, that song was festering in my brain. My dad and I did some research later on that week. Then one day I am in my bedroom and over hear that familiar song pumping through those Allegro speakers and I immediately ran into the living room and inquired about it. My dad was holding a disc in his hands. It was entitled “Piper At The Gates of Dawn” by Pink Floyd, featuring original singer, guitarist and song writer-Syd Barrett.
I learned of Syd Barrett in that moment. I never knew about him or the amazing body of work he contributed to that band. The song that I fell in love with is called Astronomy Domine. Totally spacey and cosmic and psychedelic! That song changed my life forever because I knew there was more Pink Floyd music out there that I never even knew existed before. I started to realize that every band has its beginnings before they become popular. Before they reach stardom, they have a starting point. Something that inspired them to make music to begin with. That night at the concert while standing in front of my chair gazing up at the stage I experienced something like never before. At age 18 that summer, I became educated that there’s this amazing story behind the band Pink Floyd. That it all began with a man named Syd. Syd Barrett’s experiments with sights and sounds and his eventual madness is what created albums like Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Without his genius and absurdness, Pink Floyd would never have become as great as they did.
That single song, Astronomy Domine, shaped my life because I learned how to embrace all sides of life and music. There’s more than meets the eye and ears. I learned to go deeper than the surface. To explore beyond the obvious. I began to embrace the deep cuts and the hidden treasures of my own life each and every day.