Were I a crueller man, I would have posted this as a comment directly on the Georgia Straight website, where Steve Newton and Martin Dunphy (and who-knows-who-all-else) have been writing about their experiences of seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in Vancouver tonight (or last night, or however you wish to think of it). A whole post was devoted, in fact, to "Comfortably Numb." I really don't want to seem a party pooper, or otherwise subtract from Martin and Newt's enjoyment of the concert - because I've abused this song before and thus hurt people who remain attached to it, which proved far less satisfying than I'd hoped - but having had my spleen stirred, it must be vented somewhere: because I cannot believe anyone (certainly not someone who was alive and listening to music when The Wall was first released) would actually want to listen to "Comfortably Numb" by choice, given the massive number of times one must INVOLUNTARILY listen to it in public. Certainly for one such as I - who was already starting to skip that side of the album out of weariness for the song when I was 13 or so, back when I still had The Wall in my collection - the experience of having it come on the radio in a car, or hearing it while shopping, or eating, or sitting in a dentist's office (which is sort of a fitting environment for it, actually) has long since ceased to be welcome. Its ubiquity has transformed it from a song that once was about something (however minor) to a sort of cultural wallpaper that serves to validate the identity of a generation, to affirm their tastes and ratify their horizons and help block out any new musical experiences; my own frustration on hearing it is such that I cannot but be suspicious of anyone who is not as sick of it as I: What are they getting out of it, REALLY? What craving for security and validation keeps them returning to THIS song, when there are so many other ones out there? ...Because let's face it, folks, there is only one more tediously overplayed rock classic in existence, and THAT one involves bustles in hedgerows. (At least people don't badly busk "Comfortably Numb" on Granville Street over and over and over and over and over. How much sicker still would I be of it, then?). If there were one Pink Floyd song that needed to be locked in a bunker for at least thirty years, to give the world a chance to listen to something else (or at least give the song back some of its long-lost freshness), this is the one, this is the one. Given a choice between having to listen to "Comfortably Numb" and pretty much any other music in the world, from Barry Manilow to Pakistani disco to fuckin' Def Leppard, I'd -- well, I might have to think for a bit about it if the other choice was Def Leppard, but you see where I'm going. Pakistani disco, on the other hand... I mean, I don't have any clue what that might sound like, but I'd take an hour of it over "Comfortably Numb" in a second, you know? Christ, wouldn't YOU?
None of this is really the song's FAULT, of course - because how many songs out there are good enough to bear up to being overplayed and overpraised to the extent THIS one is? If I had to listen to , I dunno, the Clash's "London Calling" or X's "Los Angeles" as often as I've had to listen to "Comfortably Numb," I'd probably feel the same way about them, too. In fact, sad as it makes me, I very nearly do.
Oh, a little note for Ray Davies, who I'll be seeing when he plays Vancouver in July: I kinda feel this way about "Lola," "You Really Got Me," and "All the Day and All of the Night," too, and would MUCH rather hear anything off Working Man's Cafe (or if we must have classics, Muswell Hillbillies or The Village Green Preservation Society, say) than any one of those tunes, 'kay? So don't feel, like, obliged or anything...