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Rock Music and its various genres have had a tremendous impact and shaped the lives of countless youth, right from the 1950s to the current days. While much has been written and said by the so-called ‘informed critics’ and censors about the evil effects of this kind of music, the effects and deep influence that various forms of music have on the youth and culture cannot be wished away. To the young generation, this kind of music with simple words and hard-talking lyrics, the mind-blowing and intricately skillful music, and the imagery portrayed by the rock stars appealed in a personal manner and embodied the reckless and anti-establishment image that has successfully captured their minds. There is no single rock star or musician who can be credited with the success of rock music and its influence on culture, just as there is no single scientist who can claim credit for having put mankind among the stars. This paper analyzes the impact of the band ‘Pink Floyd,’ the era and culture it represented, and gives a better understanding of their actual relationship to culture and reality.
The Rock Culture
Cooper (1997) had written about Brain Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC, who said ‘its more of a mental attitude’ when the singer spoke of the song ‘For those about to rock, we salute you. Copper had suggested that the early ’60s and the ’70s were what was termed as the ‘flower power’ when bands tried to address the fears, alienation, and desperation that the youth felt about issues such as the Vietnam war, racism, feminist issues, and the general overbearing attitude of the government. The hippie movement was essentially a feeling of being ‘hip,’ carefree, and modern and united the children of billionaires with the children of slum dwellers into a common anti-establishment movement that bound their youth and ideals together. This era deeply influenced politics, the mass media, art, poetry, and the lives of people who could not actually be called music lovers. It also gave rise to certain undesired social ills such as drug abuse, casual sex, and other acts. The author had also written about the music festival ‘Woodstock’ when millions of fans descended on a quiet countryside to celebrate 3 days of ‘unbridled frenzy’ of ‘pure unadulterated’ music as established and upcoming bands played to ecstatic crowds. Simply put, the music was different, and the musicians improvised a song to make it sound louder and better. In the words of Frank Zappa:
“The problem with most symphony concerts is that they all play the same things. You go to see a bar band, how many times do you want to hear “Louie Louie”? How many times do you want to hear “Beethoven’s Fifth”? How many times do you want to hear any Mozart? To me, it all sounds the same, I don’t like that music — it’s all tweedlydeedlydee. Frank Zappa (Ashby, 2000).
Pink Floyd and The Wall
Ashby (2000) speaks of Pink Floyd and this symbolism associated with their numbers. He has quoted David Wojnarowicz, who said, ‘We are born into a reinvented existence within a tribal nation of zombies, and in that illusion of a one-tribe nation there are real tribes.’ According to Ashby, the hit album of the band ‘The Wall’ created a mass following that bordered on hysteria, and the album sold over 35 million copies. The album is regarded as iconoclastic and is regarded by some music historians as one of the most influential albums of all time. Ashby suggests that the songs in the album speak of isolation, repression, and frustration and creates a latency of isomorphism that affects the youths and adults of all generations. Simply put, the album speaks at a personal level with people of all generations, such as teens, youths, young adults, parents, and the elderly. Some of the numbers are very evocatively titled, such as ‘When the Tigers broke free,’ ‘The happiest days of our lives, ‘Mother,’ ‘What shall we do now,’ Goodbye cruel world,’ ‘Bring the boys back home, ‘The show must go on, ‘Isn’t this where we came in and of course the theme song ‘Another Brick in the wall.’ Many of the songs are in multiple parts and create a unique rhapsody that addresses the personal feelings of the listener.
Ahrens (2001) has suggested that the ‘The Wall’ that Roger Waters, the lead singer of the band, speaks of is the mental wall and the barriers to the conception that we create for ourselves. The different songs revolve around ‘an abyss of isolation and loss’ and the deep phobias that are developed. A mental barrier or wall has been created that attempts to isolate the singer from the harsh realities of the world. The singer, Roger Waters, has attempted to create a chronology of sad events such as his father’s death in the war, an over-dominant mother, and a repressive education that is infested with sadistic educators who further stupefy the child with mindless repression with its dictatorial methods. There is an overwhelming attempt to create a fragmented psyche in the child as the world forces the child into further isolation. Roger speaks of such pathetic attempts as control over the thought process and indoctrination that are bricks creating a wall of psychotic seclusion, and each incident places another brick in the wall till finally, the wall has totally enclosed the psyche. All the numbers relate to the journey of the child in the Machiavellian, cloistered world of repression till Roger cries out in his song “Another Brick in the wall” that ‘We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.’ In the climax, part 3 of the song, Rogers exhorts the children to break their mental wall and come out in the open and be their true selves. The music is excellent, the bass beat mesmeric, and the lead is haunting, and to this day, new generations still listen mesmerized to the lyrics and the music and go away with a personal message. That is the everlasting appeal that this album created, and it is rightly regarded as one of the most influential albums of rock music.
Steve (2003) has argued that the songs in the album do not encourage children to use drugs or to resort to anti-social behavior, take to crime, or indulge in immoral acts. They rather act as what is popularly called a ‘downer’ and repress violent behavior. He has suggested that Pink Floyd used heavily synthesized music and used heavy, expensive gear to create unique tones and sounds that other ‘cover artists’ have never managed to copy or play. The song and tunes remain uniquely Pink Floyd, and there are no copycats who would ‘degrade’ the numbers with their lackluster renditions.
The student of this paper argues that many musicians of the 60’s such as Bob Dylan, can be regarded as poets. The student argues that while the government had its missiles, nukes and battle tanks, fighter aircraft, and riot police that cost the nation billions of dollars in an effort to control the world, it could never do so and failed. The student points out that the poet-musician, often shabbily dressed in torn jeans, managed to control and mold the minds of millions with a guitar costing a few dollars while strumming a ballad. This is the enduring face of rock music and the lasting influence that bands like Pink Floyd had on culture.
The paper has developed an understanding of how rock music has had such a strong influence on culture and has analyzed one album of Pink Floyd. The paper explains how rock bands attempted to give voice to the frustrations and fear of people and how the songs with their strongly anti-establishment messages created an iconoclastic culture that had a profound influence on society.
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