Ever get a song going through your head, and get swept up by it? You get so caught up with it that you have to track it down and listen to it a few times just to find some peace?
This morning, I woke up with the intro of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” running through my head. What a groove, it’s almost funky. All props to “Money” from the classic album “The Dark Side of the Moon,” but I’ll take this highlight from the “Wish You Were Here” album any day. It is a great, great song for playing loudly while you’re driving solo.
Listen to the guitar. Isn’t that bass fantastic? What about the synthesizer’s textures? It sounds so alienating and cold, but still beguiling. And considering the lyrical content, that’s about the most perfect instrumental vibe for which you could hope.
The song was one of my favorite jams in 1999, during my freshman year of college. I put it on most of the mix tapes I made in those days, back when cassette players were common in cars. I loved the humor in the lyrics ( “Oh by the way, which one’s Pink?” … humorous, yes, but it was a question the band members were asked back in the day), I loved the sound of the guitars, I loved the keyboards, I loved the way the song almost goes too long (it kind of bashes you over the head, but I think that it also reinforces the point … in a time when people were riffing guitar solo after guitar solo, when bands were releasing epic jams and showing off instrumental prowess, when the industry itself valued sound over content, this feels like a cynical response), I loved the vocal (performed by Roy Harper, an English folk singer who was friendly with the band).
Even now, when I hear the song on the radio or on a playlist, I’ll try to sing along and try to elongate the “train” in “gravy train,” just as Harper did. Man, that guy has amazing breath control. Whew. The fluctuations, the force, the pitch, the length of that held “ai-ayyyy-ai-aayyyyyy-aaaaaaaain,” that’s not for the weak of heart or the weak of vocals. It’s a good thing I only attempt to do this when I’m driving alone, as no passenger would want to experience my efforts to tackle this! Ha!
The “Wish You Were Here” album is one of my favorite Pink Floyd records, easily making my top five. It has my all-time favorite Pink Floyd music (the epic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”), not to mention “Have a Cigar,” the incredible title track and the powerful “Welcome to the Machine.”
At the time of the album’s recording, Pink Floyd was at a low ebb. They were exhausted and lacking inspiration after the recording and touring of the colossal “The Dark Side of the Moon” record. But the band persevered and started coming up with some incredible material (a couple of the new songs would be held and revamped for the group’s next album, 1977’s “Animals”).
The song isn’t one of the most famous in the band’s catalog, but it has its share of admirers. In fact, The Foo Fighters teamed up with Queen’s Brian May to record a version, which appeared on the “Mission: Impossible II” soundtrack. I actually bought the soundtrack back then just to have the cover in my collection. See? I really love the song.
So why was the song in my head today? Why was I humming it in the shower? Why was I blasting it in my car? Who knows. I haven’t listened to it in more than a year. The brain works in mysterious ways, right?
But I’ll say this: The song put me in a great mood. It has an undeniable hook to it, it grabs the ear and kicks a fair share of butt. And it was just what I needed early in the day. I’m not a coffee drinker and I gave up caffeine on Jan. 25, so some great classic rock helps get me ready to roll.
So if you’re looking for a boost, you have an insatiable craving, then follow Pink Floyd’s advice: “Have a Cigar.” Crank it and let yourself fly.