Comfortably Numb is one of the best song made by Pink Floyd. The song is one of Pink Floyd‘s most famous, and is renowned especially for its guitar solos in the middle and at the end of the song.

Is one of the most famous songs extracted from the album The wall. Is a real cornerstone inside the story of Pink (the protagonist of The Wall), because he change his personality from a normal man with the problem of a normal man, to a sort of tyrannic leader that talk to masses that believes in him.

Read below in the story section and the meaning section to discover more facts about this incredible song.

Lyrics

Hello?
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home?
Come on, now,
I hear you’re feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain
Get you on your feet again.
Relax.
I’ll need some information first.
Just the basic facts.
Can you show me where it hurts?

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

O.K.
Just a little pinprick.
There’ll be no more aaaaaaaaah!
But you may feel a little sick.
Can you stand up?
I do believe it’s working, good.
That’ll keep you going through the show
Come on it’s time to go.

 

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
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.

Writer/s: WATERS, ROGER/GILMOUR, DAVID JON
Publisher: Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., IMAGEM U.S. LLC

The story of Comfortably Numb

Dave Gilmour wrote most of the music while he was working on a solo album in 1978. He brought it to The Wall sessions and Waters wrote lyrics for it. Gilmour believes this song can be divided into two sections: dark and light. The light are the parts that begin “When I was a child…,” which Gilmour sings. The dark are the “Hello, is there anybody in there” parts, which are sung by Waters.

This was the last song Waters and Gilmour wrote together. In 1986 Waters left the band and felt there should be no Pink Floyd without him.

Roger Waters wrote the lyrics. While many people thought the song was about drugs, Waters claims it is not. The lyrics are about what he felt like as a child when he was sick with a fever. As an adult, he got that feeling again sometimes, entering a state of delirium, where he felt detached from reality.

Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb - Bob Geldof and Tv

He told Mojomagazine (December 2009) that the lines, “When I was a child I had a fever/My hands felt just like two balloons” were autobiographical. He explained: “I remember having the flu or something, an infection with a temperature of 105 and being delirious. It wasn’t like the hands looked like balloons, but they looked way too big, frightening. A lot of people think those lines are about masturbation. God knows why.”

Mojo asked Waters about the line, “That’ll keep you going through the show,” referring to getting medicated before going on-stage. He explained: “That comes from a specific show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia (June 29, 1977). I had stomach cramps so bad that I thought I wasn’t able to go on. A doctor backstage gave me a shot of something that I swear to God would have killed a f—ing elephant. I did the whole show hardly able to raise my hand above my knee. He said it was a muscular relaxant. But it rendered me almost insensible. It was so bad that at the end of the show, the audience was baying for more. I couldn’t do it. They did the encore about me.”

A confirmation about this was in a radio interview around 1980 with Jim Ladd from KLOS in Los Angeles, Waters said that part of the song is about the time he got hepatitis but didn’t know it. Pink Floyd had to do a show that night in Philadelphia, and the doctor Roger saw gave him a sedative to help the pain, thinking it was a stomach disorder. At the show, Roger’s hands were numb “like two toy balloons.” He was unable to focus, but also realized the fans didn’t care because they were so busy screaming, hence “comfortably” numb.

He said most of The Wall is about alienation between the audience and band.

Waters and Gilmour had an argument over which version of this to use on the album. They ended up editing two takes together as a compromise.

Dave Gilmour said in Guitar World February 1993: “Well, there were two recordings of that, which me and Roger argued about. I’d written it when I was doing my first solo album [David Gilmour, 1978]. We changed the key of the song’s opening the E to B, I think. The verse stayed exactly the same. Then we had to add a little bit, because Roger wanted to do the line, ‘I have become comfortably numb.’ Other than that, it was very, very simple to write. But the arguments on it were about how it should be mixed and which track we should use. We’d done one track with Nick Mason an drums that I thought was too rough and sloppy. We had another go at it and I thought that the second take was better. Roger disagreed. It was more an ego thing than anything else. We really went head to head with each other over such a minor thing. I probably couldn’t tell the difference if you put both versions on a record today. But, anyway, it wound up with us taking a fill out of one version and putting it into another version.”

Comfortably Numb in the movie

In the movie The Wall, this plays in a scene where the main character, a rock star named “Pink,” loses his mind and enters a catatonic state before a show.

A large group consisting of Pink’s manager (Bob Hoskins), the hotel manager (Michael Ensign), paramedics, and roadies burst into Pink’s trashed hotel room, to find an unconscious Pink sitting in a chair. As the paramedics try to revive Pink, his manager berates him, complaining about how he never liked him. The hotel manager does not take kindly to Pink’s destruction of the room, but Pink’s manager insists that “he’s an artist”, and eventually resorts to stuffing cash into the hotel manager’s pockets. After injecting a drug into Pink’s arm, the paramedics drag Pink out of the hotel and to his limousine.

comfortably-numb - pink floyd- just a little He is then transported to a concert where he was scheduled to play. Flashbacks of Pink’s childhood are inter-cut into the scene. In the flashback, a young Pink finds a wild rat and shows it to his overprotective mother. Her negative reaction towards the rodent causes Pink to hide the rat in a nearby shed. Pink later catches a fever that keeps him bed-ridden for some time. After he recovers, Pink returns to the shed only to find that the rat has died in his absence. Pink dumps its lifeless body in a nearby river.

As he is dragged through the halls of the hotel towards a waiting limousine, the drug causes Pink to hallucinate that his body is developing into a hideous, bulbous pink shell. He dreams of injured (or perhaps dead) soldiers attempting to give him back his deceased rat. Upon being pushed into the limousine, Pink tears off his diseased shell to reveal himself in Nazi-like military attire, and now appears very clean, alert, and in control of his surroundings.

The mix of “Comfortably Numb” in the film is very much the same as the album version, except that Richard Wright’s organ before David Gilmour’s final solo is removed, the bass guitar is more prominent, and Pink’s screams (as performed by Roger Waters) are mixed in, as he claws his way out of his shell.

In a weird way it was similar to what Syd Barrett, an original member of the band, went through in 1968 when he became mentally ill and was kicked out of the band.

The song is the final step in Pink’s (Roger Water’s) transformation into the Neo-Nazi, fascist character you see in the movie The Wall. Medics and the band manager come in and give Pink a shot to pull him out of his catatonic stupor, the manager pays protesting Meds some cash to shut up and let him take Pink to the concert in the state he’s in (obviously a threat to his health, but the Meds, who probably don’t make enough money, accept). In the movie Pink begins to melt on the way there, and underneath he finds that he is the cruel, fascist model of a Nazi party representative by the time he arrives at the concert. Supporting this, afterwards are the songs “The Show Must Go On” (Pink realizing as he gets to the show that there isn’t really any turning back, and he’s forced to go on-stage), “In the Flesh II” (the redone version of the first song on the album, now with Nazi-Pink singing, threatening random minorities), and “Run Like Hell” (after the crowd, loving nazi-Pink, has been whipped into a frenzy, now hunting minorities in the street, much like late 1930 Germany). While it does seem that this is a song about the “joy of heroin,” it has little, if any connection to heroin even if it’s condition resembles that of somebody who’s totally wasted.

The guitar solos

This song features two guitar solos by David Gilmour. The first solo is played over a shortened version of the chorus music, and the longer outro solo is played over the verse structure.

David Gilmour comfortably numb guitar soloGilmour’s second guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb” regularly appears in Best Guitar Solo of All Time polls. In an August 2006 poll by viewers of TV music channel Planet Rock it was voted the greatest guitar solo of all time. For the solo, the Pink Floyd guitarist used a heavy pick on his Fender Strat with maple neck through a Big Muff and delay via a Hiwatt amp and a Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet.

Gilmour told Guitar World that the solo didn’t take long to develop: “I just went out into the studio and banged out 5 or 6 solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and mark out bar lines, saying which bits are good. In other words, I make a chart, putting ticks and crosses on different bars as I count through: two ticks if it’s really good, one tick if it’s good and cross if it’s no go. Then I just follow the chart, whipping one fader up, then another fader, jumping from phrase to phrase and trying to make a really nice solo all the way through. That’s the way we did it on ‘Comfortably Numb.’ It wasn’t that difficult. But sometimes you find yourself jumping from one note to another in an impossible way. Then you have to go to another place and find a transition that sounds more natural.”

[David Gilmour] is obviously using a couple of effects, like a Big Muff and a delay, but it really is just his fingers, his vibrato, his choice of notes and how he sets his effects. I find it extraordinary when people think they can copy his sound by duplicating his gear. In reality, no matter how well you duplicate the equipment, you will never be able to duplicate the personality.

— Phil Taylor, Pink Floyd’s technician.

Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb – The meaning

Verse 1: Roger Waters

 Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home? 

Pink is completely out of it- he is drugged, enclosed inside himself and unable to function. He is needed to play the show, and the doctors are trying to get some sort of response out of his blank state. ‘Nod’ is a reference to dozing off when high on opiates (morphine, heroin, oxycodone etc).

 Come on, now, I hear you’re feeling down. Well I can ease your pain Get you on your feet again. 

Even though in the movie, Pink is unconscious and doesn’t respond to them trying to wake him, Rogers Waters is trying to get more out of him in the song. He makes it seem more like a doctor fixing someone’s actual pain problem, not an overdose.

 Relax. I’ll need some information first. Just the basic facts. Can you show me where it hurts? 

This doctor’s patter has a dual meeting – Pink’s hurt goes a lot deeper, and is largely internal and emotional, not physical.

Chorus: David Gilmour

 There is no pain you are receding 

As the doctor goes on and on about easing Pink’s pain, Pink finally explains to him that he is not in pain but the opposite – at a somewhat peace. This is due to the fact that he is heavily drugged, as he goes on to explain the floating numbness he feels.

This is the result of the wall – that’s exactly the problem: there is NO pain. He can’t feel anything. That’s why when the doctor says he knows his pain, Pink knows deep down he doesn’t since his problem is that there is no such pain. We see that the doctor is giving him some physical medicine so this might also refer to explaining there is no physical pain.

 A distant ship, smoke on the horizon. 

The world is dulled for Pink. In his perspective, everything is like some ephemereal distant ship’s smoke on the horizon, an image that is as enigmatic as it is eloquent. Many take the line about the ship as a description of the outside world, assuming that theYou (the doctor / the world) of the previous line is still the subject here.

 You are only coming through in waves. Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying. 

The world is dulled for Pink. In his perspective, everything is like some ephemereal distant ship’s smoke on the horizon, an image that is as enigmatic as it is eloquent. Many take the line about the ship as a description of the outside world, assuming that theYou (the doctor / the world) of the previous line is still the subject here.

 When I was a child I had a fever My hands felt just like two balloons. 

His hands are swollen from an unknown illness. In the video, you can see him playing with a rat, leading us to believe that is the source of the illness.

 Now I’ve got that feeling once again 

“That feeling” is inspired by an illness Roger Waters had when he was young.

 I can’t explain you would not understand 

It would be hard for Pink to explain an experience that not many people have came across and could relate to.

 This is not how I am. 

He claims he’s not usually like this, but in reality he’s lying/being ironic, for he IS usually like this. He’s been building the wall his whole life, distancing himself from the world around him, and so on.

This line may also signify that he could be so much more, he IS so much more, if only he wasn’t crippled by his depression and antisocial attitude. He had an almost normal upbringing and was actually functional until he just broke down and ceased to exist basically.

 I have become comfortably numb. 

The comfortable numbness can refer to his emotional state at this point in the album- he has gone from feeling lonely and in pain to simply numb, with a hazy division between himself and the world.

This whole song is actually based on a true story from when Roger got sick (from hepatitis which was undiagnosed prior to the concert) before his show in Philadelphia in 1977. The Doctor injected him with some form of tranquilizer to enable him to perform the show. These tranquilizers made him feel ‘comfortably numb.’

Guitar Solo 1

 I have become comfortably numb 

Verse 2: Roger Waters

 O.K. Just a little pinprick. 

The injection. The needle being the pin. After this line is delivered in the song, you can faintly hear a very delicate chime in the background, which symbolizes the injection in action.

 There’ll be no more aaaaaaaaah! But you may feel a little sick. 

The injection mentioned in the line earlier (likely a stimulant) is going to wake him up, but it won’t come without some side effects (“you may feel a little sick”). Also, the injection will remove the agonizing pain that his illness causes him. The “AHHHH” is the intense pain he is feeling, and “There’ll be no more” is the promise that after the “pin prick” the pain will be gone.

 Can you stand up? I do believe it’s working, good. That’ll keep you going through the show Come on it’s time to go. 

Pink is being administered meds in order to allow him to adjust properly and get him through the show, or his life, society, and relationships. which have become all a show to him. Society does not worry about the effects their meds have on pink, so long as they workfor their purpose: come on it’s time to go, they say.

Chorus: David Gilmour

 There is no pain you are receding 

As the doctor goes on and on about easing Pink’s pain, Pink finally explains to him that he is not in pain but the opposite – at a somewhat peace. This is due to the fact that he is heavily drugged, as he goes on to explain the floating numbness he feels. This is the result of the wall – that’s exactly the problem: there is NO pain. He can’t feel anything. That’s why when the doctor says he knows his pain, Pink knows deep down he doesn’t since his problem is that there is no such pain. We see that the doctor is giving him some physical medicine so this might also refer to explaining there is no physical pain.

 A distant ship, smoke on the horizon. 

The world is dulled for Pink. In his perspective, everything is like some ephemereal distant ship’s smoke on the horizon, an image that is as enigmatic as it is eloquent. Many take the line about the ship as a description of the outside world, assuming that theYou (the doctor / the world) of the previous line is still the subject here.

 You are only coming through in waves. Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying. 

As he’s sitting there, he drifts in and out of his conscious mind, someone is trying to talk to him, he can see that he’s talking, but he can’t hear what they’re saying.

 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. 

In some ways, Pink possibly took a glimpse in the future. This is also subtly said in the movie adaption of the same name.

These lines mean that the future Pink caught a glimpse on is not the future he will face (or is facing). Instead, he is living a life of pain, far from achieving his own dreams.

“The child is grown / The dream is gone” confirms this idea, for the life he had imagined when he was young is gone. All the negative actions mentioned throught the album (criticism, humiliation, death and more important drug addiction) are not the future Pink wanted.

However, it’s not too late to change: the future is no longer a distant dream, but the reality, and the narrator can’t simply put a finger on it and ignore it, but has to realise he is grown and has to change not his future but his present.

 And i…  have become comfortably numb. 

Guitar solo 2

 

Conclusion

Yes. I love this song. I see Pink Floyd live at Rome in the 1994 with the Pulse tour. A big and bold show. And this song come like magic with the mirror ball. I like it, and i’m proud that i can take this memory with me.

Leave a comment or a different vision of the meaning of this song if you want.

 

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