I was really bummed out to hear today that Richard Wright has died. Celebrities come and go, and it seems like quite a few have been on the “going” list this past year, but their passing generally has no impact on me. I mean, yes, it’s always a shame when someone dies, but for the most part famous people are just people whom I’ve never met and who have had no impact on my life. Wright, on the other hand…well, I never met him, but he definitely affected me. I used to obsess over Pink Floyd, back when I cared a little too much about music and felt compelled to thrust my obnoxious tastes on everyone; during my freshman year of college my dorm roommate and I woke up every day to The Dark Side of the Moon. You know, since it has a nice gentle intro that slowly builds in force and volume — and, if that fails to do the trick, there’s eventually a bunch of alarm clocks. This was stuff that had a profound influence on my malleable young mind. And I didn’t even do drugs! I just really loved the music.
Wright, I’ve always felt, was the most underappreciated member of the band. Seems like every classic quartet had one; see also Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. You always had your two dynamic forces (Waters/Gilmour, Plant/Page, Lennon/McCartney). Your had your guy who was just along for the ride (Nick Mason, Ringo Starr, and…er, well, okay, not John Bonham). And then there was the quiet one who left his indelible mark on the music in ways that weren’t really appreciated until he parted ways with the rest (Wright, Jones, Harrison).
Wright’s atmospheric keyboards were an integral part of Pink Floyd’s sound, from the stark piano of “Echoes” to the spacey textures of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I – Whatever.” But no one really recognized what he brought to the band, I think, until he dropped out in all but name due to, ah, personal problems. Namely, he was making up for my lack of recreational drug use with his own vigorous inhalations, something Roger Waters supposedly memorialized in “Nobody Home” (specifically, the lines “I’ve got a silver spoon on a chain/Got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains”). Wright was credited for The Final Cut and A Momentary Lapse of Reason, but didn’t really contribute to them. My belief is that the fact that those are the band’s two most soulless and unsatisfying albums is not a coincidence. He cleaned up and played a major role in the band’s final album, The Division Bell, and it made a huge difference. I’ll forgive him the one track he sang himself, although it’s actually not very good at all. But hey, everyone should be allowed an indulgence every now and then.
Anyway, it’s very disheartening to hear. Ah, but life goes on as usual for the rest of us:
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I guess it’s a sign that I’m getting old when not a single one of the big releases during the brisk introduction to the holiday release rush interests me. Or, on the other hand, it could be a sign that the film industry produces an awful lot of complete crap, like the latest Mike Meyers travesty. Ah, So I Married An Axe Murderer, how we pine for your relative intelligence.
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Meanwhile, over in game land, LucasArts is releasing yet another complete turd of a Star Wars game that’s going to sell millions despite the only amusement to be derived from it is watching YouTube videos of the ridiculous character physics. Meanwhile, I bet the excellent Dragon Quest IV will struggle to clear 50,000. Shine on, you crazy Americans.