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Though You Are Here

Some songs are not easily forgotten. They stay on your mind for quite some time and keep you singing them from time to time until you find some new songs. Luckily, we have such kind of mechanism to lighten the work of our brain; we gain lot of new things, we forget some things. This may lead us to one line from Alphaville: “song many songs we forgot to play” and thus we know we are not “forever young”, aren’t we? Yet, we are not going to talk about Alphaville at this mo. We will talk about one song from Pink Floyd.

I did not know who Pink Floyd were until one day I listened to one of their songs on TV. The song was performed by some local band and it made me gaze at the TV screen and locked my ears on the lyric. Okay, they really got me into the atmosphere of the song; a creepy one I guessed. The song was “Wish You Were Here”. I myself believe that this song must be one song you will not easily forget. This song has a good lyric, though melancholic one.

“Wish You Were Here” was written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour.  This song was attributed to Syd Barrett, their friend who got addicted to drugs and then lost himself. Syd Barret got mental breakdown as the drugs took his life (cf. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1558). This is truly a sad song as you can read from the lyric. Here’s the lyric:

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue sky’s from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

source of the lyric: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/p/pinkfloydlyrics/wishyouwereherelyrics.html

Yup, the song takes us into an ironic conversation between two friends. It is like when you have a conversation with your best friend. You start asking your friend whether your friend can tell:

  • heaven from hell
  • blue sky’s from pain
  • a green field from a cold steel rail
  • a smile from a veil.

It is a kind of paradox. It sounds silly to ask the description of one thing from the opposite thing. But, what makes the irony exist is the idea of describing things from the opposite view. You can surely tell heaven from hell because you feel and understand that hell is no heaven. You can undoubtedly tell what blue sky is from pain because of the differences between them are massive. However, if we use also the context the song was written, we will find the lyric as a useless conversation between you and your best friend who has mental breakdown because of drugs abused.

You cannot talk to someone who has lost his mind. You cannot make any meaningful conversation to your best friend anymore. That is why the next line: “Do you think you can tell?” seems to depict this kind of situation. It is a situation when you have bunch of questions to your best friend but you know that you will not get any answer appropriately from him because he does not understand any word you say. He is “mute”. He lives in different world. You are words-loaded but the words have no meanings anymore in front of your best friend.

The next stanza:

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

means that they [drugs] have taken good things from the one whom you talk to. Drugs deceived and misled him about heroes-ghosts, hot ashes-trees, hot air-a cool breeze, cold comfort-change. Drugs have also taken his opportunity to take part in the war [remember that this song was written in 70’s when Vietnam war was a hot issue] and given him “a lead role in a cage”.

Then you cry for him and wish: “how I wish, how I wish you were here”. This line refers to the absence of mind of your best friend. Yes, he is in front of you but he is not there. You are sad, he was your best friend but now he is not he is used to be. While you are sad, you remember that you and your best friend:

are just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.

and you close the conversation:

What have you found? The same old fears.

You realize that you will not have your best friend back. You feel sorry for him. He tried to escape from his fears by using drugs; the same fears you have. He chose drugs to overcome the fears you both used to share but it ended wrongfully for him. As Fergie says: “fairy tale stories don’t always have a happy ending, do they?”. End of story.

Creative Commons License
Though You Are Here by Dipa Nugraha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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