Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Richard William Wright 1943-2008

No one can replace Richard Wright. He was my musical partner and my friend.

In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten.

He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound.

I have never played with anyone quite like him. The blend of his and my voices and our musical telepathy reached their first major flowering in 1971 on "Echoes." In my view all the greatest Pink Floyd moments are the ones where he is in full flow. After all, without "Us and Them" and "The Great Gig In The Sky," both of which he wrote, what would The Dark Side Of The Moon have been? Without his quiet touch the album Wish You Were Here would not quite have worked.

In our middle years, for many reasons he lost his way for a while, but in the early Nineties, with
The Division Bell, his vitality, spark and humour returned to him and then the audience reaction to his appearances on my tour in 2006 was hugely uplifting and it's a mark of his modesty that those standing ovations came as a huge surprise to him, (though not to the rest of us).

Like Rick, I don't find it easy to express my feelings in words, but I loved him and will miss him enormously.

David Gilmour, posted to his website.

OK, this one hurts. A lotlot.

The "magic circle" has been broken at last: granted, there was never much of a chance for any kind of significant Pink Floyd reunion (with or without the involvement of Roger Waters), but any irrational hopes or fantasies of that great colossus rising once again are now completely dissolved.

While I felt the passing of Pink Floyd's original founder, guitar player, songwriter, and vocalist "Syd" Barrett two years ago in a kind of disconnected, intellectual sadness, the unexpected death of founding member and longtime keyboardist Richard Wright hits much closer to home. Barrett had been ousted from the band in early 1968, thus the songs and sounds he had created were nearly at total odds with the Pink Floyd that had conquered the world five years later. Wright, on the other hand, was a central pillar of the classic "Pink Floyd sound" and while his shadowy, guarded personality kept him well below the radar for all but the most reverent of their fans, his contribution to the band's classic works cannot be overstated.

For a seventeen year old kid who had been utterly fascinated for years by the use of synthesizers in modern pop/rock music, hearing something as unbelievably exotic as Wish You Were Here on a spring night in 1987 was perhaps as life-changing an event for me as reading A Catcher In The Rye or Atlas Shrugged might have been for someone else at that point in those stormy, impressionable teenage years.

Considering that it was that 3 minute intro to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" that almost single-handedly turned me into an obsessive fanboy from that night onwards, it's kind of funny that I dedicated nearly all of my hero worship over the years to David Gilmour instead, but then again why not? Gilmour was a far more affable, talkative, and charming focal point for the band, whereas Wright tended to be withdrawn to the point of invisibility, when he was interviewed at all.

Yet listening now to the band's catalog, it becomes terribly obvious than even moreso than Gilmour's precise, piercing guitar solos, the delicate, jazz-influenced touch of Wright's hands on piano, organ or synth was vital to the sound of Pink Floyd. Almost entirely from Wright's chair at stage left came that crucial space between the beats that lifted the band's music into that rare air occupied by no one else. Looking over the Floyd's early years, where his influence was almost certainly at its peak, I can't even imagine where the band might have ended up (or if they would even have gone anywhere at all) without him in the band after Barrett was out of the picture. Without his deceptively simple, swirling Hammond chords and eerie Moog sketches to lay the groundwork over which Gilmour soared, it just wouldn't have been Pink Floyd.

It's much easier to imagine Wright out of the equation a decade later, for that is exactly what happened as he marginalized himself out of the lineup after Animals. Creatively listless during the recording sessions for The Wall, Wright was forced out of the band following the tour for that conceptual monster, and was completely absent for the making of Waters' last stand The Final Cut and the Gilmour-led A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. With Wright gone (and Waters firmly in command), Pink Floyd's music grew ever more strident, invasive and confrontational. This was even true of the comparatively lush Momentary Lapse, which was certainly no slouch in the volume department. Consciously or not, Wright was a calming influence that often gave the band's music a feeling of weightless, soaring grace.

Pink Floyd's music has made so much of a mark on me and my psyche that Wright's death is almost like losing a close friend. Becoming a fan of Pink Floyd widened my musical horizons immeasurably, and their music (and perhaps more importantly, the way it was presented and recorded) influenced my personal tastes to an extent that I am still coming to grips with over twenty years later.

Goodbye, Richard, and thank you for some of the best listening experiences of my life.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

(Flickr Post): Cliff Gets #20

20080901 62
Going into September. the 2008 Cleveland Indians season is all about reduced expectations and winning a few little battles in lieu of the war ... save for the amazing ascent into Baseball Valhalla of longtime Cleveland starter Cliff Lee.

Exactly one year after he was called back up to the Tribe from the minor leagues (where he had been banished for half the summer following an awful, injury-plagued 2007 start), Lee faced the front-running Chicago White Sox and shut them out with nine innings of incredible, pinpoint location.

Like every other Tribe fan this year, I had been following Lee's exploits all year following his absolutely inhuman April start, watching as he came slightly back down to Earth in May and June, yet never relinquishing his new position as baseball's most dominant pitcher. Scheduling conflicts had kept me from ever seeing Lee pitch in person, and it was with great delight that I realized that the game I would finally see him pitch in person would be such a historic occasion. Everyone at Progressive Field was there to see Lee become the first twenty game winner for the Indians in nearly 35 years, and the atmosphere was electric with excitement the entire night.

What a fantastic night, and what an incredible achievement for a pitcher that many, including myself, were all too ready to part with after the 2007 season. In a season that has given Indians fans precious little to cheer for, Lee has become a superstar. This was a night for the ages.