The Music Meme: Day 16

Day 16: A song that holds a lot of meaning to you


Every song I've discussed here tends to hold a fair amount of meaning--I mean really, can you write at any length about a song that does not?--but today I'll dig into a song that has several very different meanings.

I got to this one relatively late. I'd been introduced to Pink Floyd during the fall of 1978, thanks to David Marion making me a cassette with several tracks from Dark Side of the Moon and a variety of techies insisting on playing Animals over and over again while we built the sets for Blithe Spirit and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It wasn't until my senior year, however, that I purchased a copy of Wish You Were Here on the same trip to the Record Bar where I bought the Who's Quadrophenia

I played those two albums back to back in my room and on homemade cassette copies in my car (my folks' Oldsmobile Omega--a '76, I believe) for several weeks, and they burned into my memory in a fairly significant way because these were the weeks when I was breaking up with my first serious girlfriend. Thus, they were the soundtrack for the period where her long silence was beginning to weigh on me (she'd gone off to college while I was finishing HS, and letters and calls had trickled to a halt), and for the drive I made to her college one weekend (over and over and over), and the awkward, painful reunion that I eventually declared our finale, and of course for the long drive home. Believe me, I knew Wish You Were Here intimately by the time I pulled back into my driveway, and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was the swirling, chiming, occasionally thunderous sun about which my emotions were orbiting.

Note: not all my associations with Wish You Were Here have been so bleak, however. During my first year of marriage, I helped form the ska revue Rorhwaggen to help my friends the Pressure Boys defray some significant and unexpected expenses. Among other things, it was my first chance to work with singer Marvin Levi, bassist Jack Campbell and sax player Gregg Stafford, but it was also a chance to play some of my favorite two-tone songs with a crackerjack set of musicians and do it in front of large and very appreciative audiences. The group was loose and energetic and ready to try anything, so it seemed fairly natural that our discussion of possible encores went in some odd directions. One song was pretty close to unanimous--the Specials' "Concrete Jungle"--but drummer Rob Ladd wanted to do something different for the final song, so he swapped places with guitarist John Plymale and led us through a two-minute upbeat country version of "Wish You Were Here," which still fills me with glee whenever I think about it. 

But the other major association I have with "Shine On..." is a very simple one. One cold winter's night in early 1985, I was out enjoying one of Chapel Hill's relatively rare periods of snow. My friend and then-roommate Mike Beard and I were without our third roomie, Mike's girlfriend Ginny, and had decided it was time to recapture our childhoods. Having taken our sleds from our parents' houses, we hauled them off to the top of the highest hills at UNC's Finley Golf Course (where I'm about 99% certain we'd have been in trouble if we'd been caught). I was not quite 22, Mike just short of 24, so we had no particular excuse for making this excursion, but once we'd driven over the uncertain plowings of the town's street-cleaning crew, we saw no reason to hold back. Along with our friend Warren, we raced our several sleds, piled bodies onto single sleds, caught air on moguls that probably weren't intended as jumps, and crashed cheerfully into snowbank after snowbank. The air was clear, and thus cold, and we were far from any lights, so the glow of stars and the whiteness of the snow were the only things visible. It was a glorious night.

After a time, it became clear that we had packed snow into every possible nook and cranny of our clothing, and possibly our bodies, and we bid Warren adieu. Arriving home, we were still freezing, but even without discussion, we knew just what to do.

I shrugged my coat off and hung it on the rack. "I'll make the hot chocolate and cinnamon toast," I announced.

Mike nodded. "I'll get the bourbon, turn on the heaters, and put on the Pink Floyd."

And before long, there we sat, lights out, butts pointed at the two space heaters, listening to Richard Wright's synthesizers wash over the room, with the scents of cinnamon sugar, cocoa, and Wild Turkey filling us to the brim with contentment.

In short, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" has been my soundtrack for some really bad hours, and I can never forget that. But it was also there to tie together one of my life's most memorable patches of pure happiness, and in the end, I think that matters more.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 21, 2017 9:20 AM.

The Music Meme: Day 15 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Music Meme: Day 17 is the next entry in this blog.

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