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#1
Old 05-27-2007, 12:29 AM
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Interpret this: Comfortably Numb Lyrics

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ships smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I cant hear what youre sayin.
When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I got that feeling once again.
I cant explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ships smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I cant hear what youre sayin.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb


Not to start an invasion of Pink Floyd threads (this is my last one, I promise), but I am very curious to the meaning, or other peoples interpretation to these lyrics.

To those (few) of you who do not know what this is...they are part of the lyrics to Pink Floyd's huge classic hit "Comfortably Numb".

I"ll admit it, I LOVE this song. I love the lyrics, I love the rhythm, everything. However, as much as I like the lyrics, I keep having trouble trying to understand WHAT they mean. So I've been looking and doing some research and this is what I have come up with:

Roger Waters was given the wrong medication for a mis-diagnosed illness. Now the effects of the medication he was given made it extremly hard for him to continue playing all the rights cords in the guitar. This drug obviously made him feel weird, but at the same time, when he looked at the crowd, they were all so "in" the concert, he argued he became "comfortably numb" at this instance.

Yet in another interview of Waters seen in Youtube, he claims that soon after the he divorced his first wife, he was feeling very bad or stressed out (can't remember which one exactly). While he was eating in the cafeteria he all of a sudden got a very strange feeling, a sort of distortion of perception. He described the feeling as looking at the world through an inverse telescope, everything became distant and he felt weird. He proceeded to go and play the piano, and then about 5 minutes later, reality came back again. He said he felt relived because he was an instant from losing it.

How this relates to this specific song is not quite clear. Some claim this song is about drugs, Waters seems to give contradictory messages on this song.

I really don't care if it IS about drugs, I am more in awe of Water'a ability to describe a moment in time in which your perception of reality changes. It's almost poetic, really, to see how Waters describes this sensation. The human mind is a very complex and wonderul thing......

The "when I was a child" section puzzles me a bit, too. I don't know what to make of it.

Enough of my talking......

What do you think these specific lyrics mean?

Last edited by Frustrated Wonderer; 05-27-2007 at 12:32 AM.
#2
Old 05-27-2007, 12:47 AM
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I was under the impression that the song was an exchange between the protagonist of the album and someone else. I got the impression the the protagonist was crashing from drugs (?) and someone else, maybe a doctor or other medical personnel, was trying to get him capable of performing. I never thought that it had a real life parallel. Did a lot of the songs in the album parallel events in the lives of the singers?
#3
Old 05-27-2007, 12:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Stickler
I was under the impression that the song was an exchange between the protagonist of the album and someone else. I got the impression the the protagonist was crashing from drugs (?) and someone else, maybe a doctor or other medical personnel, was trying to get him capable of performing. I never thought that it had a real life parallel. Did a lot of the songs in the album parallel events in the lives of the singers?
Heh, you'd be suprised as to how many of Pink Floyd's songs have real life parrallels.

Most impressive of course is the Whish you Were Here album, that is almost entirley dedicated to Syd Barret, original band member that went crazy....very sad and powerful.

You can see Waters briefly mention this song in Youtube. It's called Roger Waters on Syd Barret or something like that, it is quite interesting.
#4
Old 05-27-2007, 01:04 AM
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Yeah, I figured it was just another Pink Floyd song referring to Syd's retreat from reality. I'm surprised to hear otherwise.
#5
Old 05-27-2007, 05:37 AM
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The lyrics seem to mean exactly what they look to mean, so I'm not sure what you're asking. The guy is feeling a bit zonked out, and at the same time like he's failed at his life.

It's a great song and the lyrics are very good at conjuring the right image. But I think you're fooling yourself if you think there's anything secret to get there. The real life experiences that made him able to describe such a feeling is of course something you can point to as being related to the song, but knowing that doesn't make me any more knowledgeable about the song than knowing that someone who wrote a song about riding a horse actually rode a horse once.
#6
Old 05-27-2007, 08:10 AM
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I think everybody's getting a nice little piece of the song, and in the end the only one who really knows the whole thing is Roger!

Let me add my little piece,
... When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.
For me this is a reference to a theme that's not really present in the album but plays a large role in the film and is a major theme in "The Final Cut". The dream of a post war world very different from the post war nightmare we've all become comfortably numb to.
The Post War Dream
... What have we done, Maggie what have we done?
What have we done to England?
Should we shout, should we scream
"What happened to the post war dream?"
Oh Maggie, Maggie what have we done?

The Gunner's Dream

... In the space between the heavens
and in the corner of some foreign field
I had a dream. ...
... A place to stay
Enough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears
And what's more no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door.
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no-one kills the children anymore. ...
... Night after night
Going round and round my brain
His dream is driving me insane.
In the corner of some foreign field
The gunner sleeps tonight.
What's done is done.
We cannot just write off his final scene.
Take heed of his dream. ...
Quote:
Comfortably Numb
... According to Rolling Stone the lyrics came from Roger Waters' experience when he was injected with tranquillizers for hepatitis by a doctor prior to playing a Pink Floyd show in Philadelphia on the band's 1977 tour for the Animals album. "That was the longest two hours of my life," Waters said. "Trying to do a show when you can hardly lift your arm." The experience gave him the idea which became this song. ...
... Like the rest of the songs on the album, "Comfortably Numb" tells a part of the story of Pink, the album's protagonist. Pink, feeling completely isolated from society, cannot stand the pressures of life as a rock star and collapses in his hotel room before leaving for his concert. A doctor is sent into the room and gives Pink an injection that gives him the energy he needs to perform. The lyrics are written as a conversation, with Waters voicing the doctor and Gilmour voicing Pink. ...
An interesting analysis of the song and album.

CMC fnord!
#7
Old 05-27-2007, 08:20 AM
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Without knowing anything about its autobiographical roots, I always figured the song was a description of being depressed (which is consistent with the movie's storyline). The "caught a glimpse as a child" part could relate to moments of clarity when he experienced his authentic self, before being overwhelmed by mental illness. That's what I thought when I was a teenager, anyway.

My friends always figured it was about getting drunk.
#8
Old 05-27-2007, 12:17 PM
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The lyrics of "Comfortably Numb" are about being shot up with Haldol or Prolixin.

Main character is seriously distraught at that point (if you've been following along the album's course), has seriously entertained and perhaps attempted suicide (end of side one), and moreover can't put his finger on exactly what's wrong in the first place.

Enter the needle: just a little pinprinck, there'll be no more AAAAUGH!!! but you may feel a little sick...

Once shot up with psych drugs, it's like your brain is stuffed with cotton, you see and feel everything as if from a distance and nothing matters very much: there is no pain, you are receding...you are only coming through in waves, your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying, etc.
#9
Old 05-27-2007, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3
The lyrics of "Comfortably Numb" are about being shot up with Haldol or Prolixin.

Main character is seriously distraught at that point (if you've been following along the album's course), has seriously entertained and perhaps attempted suicide (end of side one), and moreover can't put his finger on exactly what's wrong in the first place.

Enter the needle: just a little pinprinck, there'll be no more AAAAUGH!!! but you may feel a little sick...

Once shot up with psych drugs, it's like your brain is stuffed with cotton, you see and feel everything as if from a distance and nothing matters very much: there is no pain, you are receding...you are only coming through in waves, your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying, etc.
True, but if you follow the song, the "there is no pain you are receding" part comes before he even gets a shot from the doctor....

He was feeling s o m e t h i n g before he recieved the drug...and I happen to think that what Waters expirienced in real life IS relevant to the song, he wrote the lyrics based on this expirience. Waters just managed to make his expirience fit in this album.

Last edited by Frustrated Wonderer; 05-27-2007 at 12:27 PM.
#10
Old 05-27-2007, 12:37 PM
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Repost, longer with edits & elaborations:

The lyrics of "Comfortably Numb" are about being shot up with Haldol or Prolixin.

Main character is seriously distraught at that point (if you've been following along the album's course), has seriously entertained and perhaps attempted suicide (end of side one), and moreover can't put his finger on exactly what's wrong in the first place.



Enter psychiatric intervention, specifically the needle: just a little pinprick, there'll be no more AAAAUGH!!! but you may feel a little sick...

Once shot up with psych drugs, it's like your brain is stuffed with cotton, you see and feel everything as if from a distance and nothing matters very much: there is no pain, you are receding...you are only coming through in waves, your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying, etc.



The part about not being able to put his finger on specifically what's WRONG is woven into the entire album, not just this song. In this song it manifests in the lines about "something out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned to look it was gone, etc". But it's everywhere. Oh, is something upsetting you, 'Sunshine', is this not what you expected to see? Did you go skating on the thin ice and have a crack suddenly appear under your feet? What HAPPENED during the 'happiest days of ouur lives', by the way?

Throughout the album, there are constant juxapositions between cheerful or everyday scenarios and something much more ominous and darker just beneath it. This is often especially vivid in the little snippets in between tracks! Everyone who has seen the movie tends to think of them only as "Oh, that's where 'Pink' is watching TV, that's just the soundtrack of some TV show". Well, strikeout that word just. Every single snippet was very carefully selected to facilitate the mood, and there's a constant buildup of tension from start of album to trial. Under the facade of world-as-Mommy-explained-it is an angry hateful world that blames and casts accusations at the narrator/protagonist.

Oh yeah, and btw it's all about male sexuality. That's the theme of the whole album, as you can plainly see if you can get outside that mad bugger's wall. The dark-underside theme is deeply shot through with "we think you're a fucking queer, you bleeding heart artist, and we're putting you on trial to confront it, it's your deepest fear isn't it? Something WRONG with you, you faggot!" Outside, the ones who really love you gather together in bands, some holding hands, etc.
#11
Old 05-27-2007, 05:33 PM
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I agree that this song is a fictional account of the protagonist being injected with drugs (AHunter3 seems to have some specifics). This does not mean that "Distant smoke on the horizon" and "when i was a child I had a fever" did not relate genuine experiences that they had in their lives. My Pink Floyd reference is at the other end of the country, but I am reasonably certain that those two lines had specific things in mind.
#12
Old 05-27-2007, 06:20 PM
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Interesting, since the "When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons."
section is the only part I KNOW I understand-- I used to get fevers when I was a kid which would involve a sort of sense that my body was expanding-- my limbs felt numb and disassociated--like they weren't mine and felt floaty and I had a sense that I was about to get too big and be crushed by the room I was in, and I'd panic. So the first time I heard those lines I thought, "Whoah."
No one else had that with fevers? I guess the only other time I witnessed it in another person was a college roommate-- Japanese kid freaking out with a fever about how he was getting too big for the room and I knew exactly what he was talking about.
#13
Old 05-27-2007, 06:29 PM
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I always took the 'caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye' section literally. It's hard to describe it without quoting the lyrics verbatim. Kind of like a flash of insight or sensing of a great profundity (literally at the periphery of my vision) and the second I tried to grasp it mentally or see it it was gone. It happened throughout my adolescence and never again. I think Waters articulated this perfectly and that's one of the reasons the song resonates so well. At least with guys.

Last edited by mack; 05-27-2007 at 06:31 PM.
#14
Old 05-27-2007, 06:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capybara
Interesting, since the "When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons."
section is the only part I KNOW I understand-- I used to get fevers when I was a kid which would involve a sort of sense that my body was expanding-- my limbs felt numb and disassociated--like they weren't mine and felt floaty and I had a sense that I was about to get too big and be crushed by the room I was in, and I'd panic. So the first time I heard those lines I thought, "Whoah."
No one else had that with fevers? I guess the only other time I witnessed it in another person was a college roommate-- Japanese kid freaking out with a fever about how he was getting too big for the room and I knew exactly what he was talking about.
THIS is what I'm trying to get at. If it wasn't drugs that gave Water's these feelings. Then what could it be? From what I get you had you probably didn'y "enjoy" per se, the feeling. In the song, there is a sense of a certain comfort, or detachment....

What could he be possibly talking about? IS there a name for such a feeling as described by Waters in my first post?
#15
Old 05-27-2007, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mack
I always took the 'caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye' section literally. It's hard to describe it without quoting the lyrics verbatim. Kind of like a flash of insight or sensing of a great profundity (literally at the periphery of my vision) and the second I tried to grasp it mentally or see it it was gone. It happened throughout my adolescence and never again. I think Waters articulated this perfectly and that's one of the reasons the song resonates so well. At least with guys.
You mean like a sense of a deep knowledge or something? Try to describe it a BIT, I know it is hard....

Do you think this "fleeting glimpse" is related to the first hald of the stanza (e.g "there is no pain you are receding...)?
#16
Old 05-27-2007, 06:41 PM
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I know Roger had his quibbles wit the way the movie "The Wall" came out, but all told, it does capture much of the imagery in the album itself and fleshes out the story It is an interpretation that supported by the artists themselves, albeit not who wholeheartedly by some accounts, so don't consider it the end all be all of lyrical interpretations.
#17
Old 05-27-2007, 06:45 PM
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Dissociation and numbness are among the symptoms for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiki
PTSD may be triggered by an external factor or factors. Its symptoms can include the following: nightmares, flashbacks, emotional detachment or numbing of feelings (emotional self-mortification or dissociation), insomnia, avoidance of reminders and extreme distress when exposed to the reminders ("triggers"), loss of appetite, irritability, hypervigilance, memory loss (may appear as difficulty paying attention), excessive startle response, clinical depression, and anxiety.
Interesting to note, PTSD wasn't added to the DSM (the official list of mental disorders) until 1980.
#18
Old 05-27-2007, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fessie
Dissociation and numbness are among the symptoms for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder



Interesting to note, PTSD wasn't added to the DSM (the official list of mental disorders) until 1980.
Is it possible to completley "lose it" with post traumatic stress disorder? Can it be strong enough that it will mess up your brain permanently?
#19
Old 05-27-2007, 06:56 PM
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Well, given the number of Vietnam veterans who are among the homeless, it seems a safe bet.
#20
Old 05-27-2007, 07:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFury
You mean like a sense of a deep knowledge or something?
Yeah, but with a touch of ecstasy. A poor relation would be when I'm in that half asleep state where I get a flash of great music or something, except in this case I would be fully awake and it was more amorphous and...um...fleeting.
Quote:
Do you think this "fleeting glimpse" is related to the first hald of the stanza (e.g "there is no pain you are receding...)?
I think it relates more to the earlier 'when I was a child' as a contrast. In the first case he was terribly sick and this is the thing from childhood that revisits him, whereas in the second 'when I was a child' one of the things of great positive meaning from his childhood is gone forever. Strictly a WAG. I really don't know.
#21
Old 05-27-2007, 07:37 PM
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Quote:
THIS is what I'm trying to get at. If it wasn't drugs that gave Water's these feelings. Then what could it be? From what I get you had you probably didn'y "enjoy" per se, the feeling. In the song, there is a sense of a certain comfort, or detachment...
No no, from what I read, the whole "When i was a child, i had a fever", related to exactly that. When he was a child, he had a fever. That is how he felt. Definitely though, I can remember having fevers as a child that made me mildly hallucinatory. I don't think drugs are necesarily involved here except the drugs they are implying that Pink is being injected with. I also imagine that might be relating to an experience as rock stars. The whole thing about The Wall is that it reaks of experience. Unlike the following "David Gillmore Pink Floyd", the whole thing is filled with genuine heart and not pretentious at all.

ETA: While Roger Waters work post Pink Floyd may not be as great as the Pink Floyd era, it is still very genuine. It's very much what is in his heart. That is why I think Rodger Waters is the heart of Pink Floyd. As great as the music got, Rodger Waters never pretended it was anything other than himself.

Last edited by Christopher; 05-27-2007 at 07:40 PM.
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