Nine Of My Favorite Sad Songs

8. Pink Floyd – Nobody Home

I’m not sure it’s possible to really appreciate this song unless you’ve spent some time being half-nuts.  Another classic track from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” the soundtrack from which which to this day I couldn’t listen to from start to finish in one sitting for about twenty years because it just hit too close to home in too many ways.  “I’ve got wild, staring eyes…and I got a strong urge to fly…but I got nowhere to fly to…”  I suspect that if I’d ever gone far enough over the edge of sanity to take my own life, this is the song that would have been playing when I pulled the trigger.  Fortunately it never came to that.

This particular track describes the internal life of a man mired in deep depression, exacerbated by the tedium of putting on a public act of celebrity (…”the obligatory Hendrix perm, and the inevitable pinhole burns”) and the defection of his lover (“…when I try to get through on the telephone to you, there’ll be nobody home’), all while anesthetized and mentally crippled by self-abuse/self-medication (“…I’ve got a silver spoon on a chain”).  It’s probably one of the most depressing and lonely songs ever recorded, and also one of the best first-person descriptions of major depression that I can remember having seen or heard in my life.

In spite of that heavy negative vibe, though, there’s the little ray of hope or uplifted spirit, or at least the spirit trying to lift itself up or “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” indicated by the soft and almost happy-sounding orchestral accompaniment.  This, too, rings incredibly true to life in terms of the depression depicted by the song.  As someone effected by major depressive disorder, I absolutely recognize the tone of hope almost within reach, just there in the corner of your eye or the back of your mind but not quite attainable, when in the middle of a depressive period.

The entire film The Wall is of course a watermark in western culture both as music and film.  I certainly recommend seeing it, especially if you love someone who is afflicted with a depressive psychological disorder.  Although the “Pink” character is more extreme in his behavior than many functionally depressed people, his moods and thoughts and even the nature, if not the scale and scope, of his behavior throughout the film is a spot-on analysis of depression.  Beyond that, another over-arching theme of both the album and the film is the reality of social injustice, the futility of war, the power of majority privilege be it economic class, race, or just the “majority” of those having a living father during their childhood.  (The film version, from which the above video clip is taken, reinforces this point in a beautifully subtle way by showing a clip from one old British TV show in which a black dog is named with the classic racist epithet directed at black people.)

Overall, The Wall itself and this track particularly are works of absolute genius and stark, terrible beauty and pain, readily appreciated on any number of levels whether “just” as music, as social commentary, as reflections on mental illness, as a statement on infidelity and abandonment…it’s really just a great work of art.

Next:  Bringing on the other half of the equation