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Not hating Pink Floyd in Niagara Falls

August 8, 2016


Yesterday, strolling through Niagara Falls, I encountered a minstrel in a restaurant playing  (and singing) “Mother” from Pink Floyd The Wall.  Next door, in the lobby of one of the two or three swankiest hotels in town, a wedding couple posed for photographs.  The juxtaposition struck me.

The restaurant diners seems unfamiliar with Roger Waters’ body of work and looked disinclined to join in or even mouth the words, whereas I could have sung the song from memory.  However, my ten year old son was walking beside me and we were on our way to meet “Mother”, so I decided not to.

Niagara Falls is meant to be one of the most romantic places on earth.  Unfortunately, it knows it.  Niagara Falls is therefore famous for its commodification of romanticism.  If you honeymoon in Niagara Falls, then you are boldly staring down a cliche.

I listened to the wrong music as a teenager.  In particular, I listened to Pink Floyd The Wall over and over and over again.  Offensively bombastic (as well as just offensive) as it sounds now – its lyrics, chord sequences, and even detailed orchestration are now permanently embedded.  The movie, directed by Alan Parker, animated by Gerald Scarfe and starring Bob Geldorf only seemed to amplify the more misogynistic elements.   Nothing becomes less offensive by being animated by Gerald Scarfe.  Geldorf’s own recollection of the experience consists of memories of Parker, Waters and Scarfe at constant loggerheads – three very talented and ruthless egos fighting for absolute control.  What fun.

I only really have a relationship with Syd Barrett Floyd and Roger Waters Floyd.  I like crazy Floyd and nasty Floyd.  I’ve never never warmed to warm melodic Dave Gilmour Floyd, although I appreciate the view that Dave Gilmour’s solo on “Comfortably Numb” is the one and only reason to purchase (or even listen to) Pink Floyd The Wall.

As I listened to the suffocating misogyny of Roger Waters; unhappy imagination echoing around Niagara Falls, it occurred to me, that this setting, which is majestic and tacky at one and the same time, is perhaps the one and only place where the “Mother” (and other songs on the album like it) actually makes sense.  Perhaps you need an almost vulgar yet compelling symbol of the commercialised love between humans in order to listen to Roger Waters properly.  Perhaps Niagara Falls is the one place where my fundamentally unhealthy teenage fascination with Nasty Floyd can actually feel vindicated, and where the overblown and self-indulgent annihilation of romantic cliches can find a safe place – echoing from garish franchise to garish franchise and across a steep rocky gorge where the water from four of the Great Lakes pours endlessly into a fifth.



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