One of my most treasured possessions is an unopened copy of a 33 rpm record by Pink Floyd. It’s their wonderful ‘Wish you were here’ – which was first released in 1975. I sometimes get the record out of a storage box and just look at it. It has the original black plastic wrapper and I like the idea of the purity of the record that lies inside. I’ve got another copy of the same record which is opened and which I sometimes play on an old record player.
Why is the record so precious to me? I think there are two main reasons. First, the music of Pink Floyd was so original and evocative that it somehow gave me permission to enjoy a kind of dreaminess that served to transform reality. And second, the music always reminds me of the good years when most of my life lay in front of me and there was still all to play for.
There is another reason that I was less conscious of until I saw a particular television programme: Recently the BBC broadcast a documentary in a series about the making of ‘classic albums’; one of those featured was ‘Wish you were here’. I loved the programme and I was very struck by some of the things that Roger Waters disclosed when he was interviewed about the record and particularly his reference to the words ‘And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?‘ that are found on the song ‘Wish you were here‘.
He said: ‘I think that most of the songs I’ve written all pose similar questions: Can you free yourself enough to be able to experience the reality of life as it goes on before you and with you – and as you go on as part of it – or not? Because if you can’t you stand on square one until you die. And that’s what the songs are about. All the songs are encouraging me – encouraging myself – not to accept a lead role in a cage but to go on demanding of myself that I keep auditioning for a walk-on part in the war – because that’s where I want to be. I want to be in the trenches. I don’t want to be at headquarters; I don’t want to be sitting in a hotel somewhere. I want to be engaged. Probably, in a way my father might approve of.’ (Roger Waters, 2012)
And as I listened I understood that I had wanted to be engaged too. I had never wanted to accept a lead role in a cage. And, I had also wanted to do some sort of justice to the hopes that my parents had for me.