“Nobody Home” (1979) Pink Floyd

“Pink Floyd The Wall” is one of the most celebrated rock operas of all-time. Many of its songs (“Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Hey You,” “Mother,” “Run Like Hell”) are staples on classic rock radio, but in my mind the best song on the album is “Nobody Home.” At the point where this song appears, the protagonist has alienated everyone who ever endeavored to care about him and he’s sitting alone in a trashed hotel room with absolutely nothing keeping him grounded to sanity. While some of this is due to a crappy childhood, most of his current state is due to his own poor choices, much of it drug-induced. He’s completely alone, realizes he’s blown it ,and has nothing left. The song conveys the last clear rational thoughts the protagonist has before he gives way to complete madness and nihilism. Oddly, this was the last song composed for “The Wall” when guitarist David Gilmour and producer Bob Ezrin challenged Roger Waters to write one more song for the album. It’s a good thing he did. The humanity of “Nobody Home” makes what happens later that much sadder and horrifying.
 
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“Mother” – Natalie Maines (with Fred Norris) live on the Howard Stern Show 1-4-2013

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Natalie Maines’s beautiful and moving cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” performed live on the Howard Stern Show earlier this month. The stellar studio version is available on the “West of Memphis” soundtrack.

“The Bed” – Lou Reed

OK, if you’re even nominally depressed or down emotionally, please do not listen to this or watch this clip.  “The Bed” is from Lou Reed’s legendary downer of an album from 1973, “Berlin.”  “Berlin” was recorded after Reed achieved commercial success with “Walk on the Walk Side”  and almost 40 years later, is still considered one of the most perverse commercial moves in a major artist’s career. “Berlin” was produced by Bob Ezrin, the producing genius behind Alice Cooper’s brilliant early albums/singles and later, Pink Floyd’s downer masterpiece from 1979 “The Wall.”  “Berlin” is a tale of the downward spiral relationship between two meth junkies (Jim and Caroline), one of whom (Caroline) also seems to be mentally ill.  If anything, “Berlin” makes “The Wall” sound upbeat in its despairing view of humanity and the depths people can sink in their own self-destruction.  “Berlin” was dismissed as a perverse joke by some critics at the time, a maudlin wallowing in misery by others.  There was talk over the years of mounting a stage production of “Berlin,”, but poor sales and negative reviews of the album halted these ideas.

However, despite the bad state Reed was in when he recorded this album, the songwriting and production of “Berlin” are quite brilliant, and almost 40 years later, the album really holds up.  Reed (over 25 years sober) finally achieved his dream of performing the album in its entirety with a 30-piece orchestra and choir in 2007, which was brilliantly captured by Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel in the 2008 film “Lou Reed’s Berlin,” well worth checking out if you’re a fan of Reed, Schnabel, or Ezrin.

“The Thin Ice” from “Pink Floyd The Wall” (1982) dir. Alan Parker

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One of my favorite songs from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and one of the sequences from the movie that I continue to find the most powerful. First of all, I love the song’s 1950s doo-wop feel filtered through a 1970s Quaalude fog. However, the way this sequence was shot and edited by Parker is consistently amazing to watch. The transition from horrific war footage to the lead character’s trashed hotel room as the vocals change from David Gilmour to Roger Waters as the camera pans over to the pool is a sequence that always gives me goosebumps.