Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd – 1979

From Pink Floyd’s 1979 album, The Wall, Comfortably Numb was released as a single and, although it didn’t chart terribly well, is listed at #314 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest rock songs of all time.

not my cup of tea

I guess with Roger Waters touring with The Wall it’s natural that Pink Floyd would be getting some airplay and, while this song’s okay, I gotta admit, they’ve never been even close to making the list of my favourite bands. In fact, I didn’t even like Dark Side of the Moon all that much!

beginnings – success

Pink Floyd’s origins are similar to so many bands throughout the rock ‘n’ roll era. Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and Syd Barrett were students with a shared passion for music. They got together, played some tunes and the rest, as they say, is history.

They went on to become one of the most commercially successful bands of all time. Album sales have reached 250 million worldwide and in 1996 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

all in all you’re just a-nother brick in…

The Wall, a double album released in November 1979, was Pink Floyd’s eleventh studio album. Performed with elaborate effects, it was made into a movie and continues to be played, in an adapted form, by Roger Waters.

The Wall is a concept album. There were a few such albums produced in the late 70s. A notable one being Jethro Tull‘s wonderful, Thick as a Brick.

This was Pink Floyd’s fourth concept album in a row. It deals with themes of abandonment and personal isolation and, so the story goes, was conceived while the band was touring in 1977.

Roger Waters became frustrated with what he perceived as “boorishness” from the band’s fans. He talked of building a wall between the band and the spectators.

The album sold over 25 million copies and is listed at #87 on The Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

comfortably numb fax

  • Comfortably Numb was written by Roger Waters (lyrics) and David Gilmour (music) – the last song they wrote together.
  • Roger and David argued over which version to use on The Wall. As a compromise, they ended up editing two takes together. 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 on 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 is the last song on side three of the double album.
  • Released as a single, Comfortably Numb didn’t chart well but remains a crowd favourite when played live.
  • Ranked at #314 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Comfortably Numb is the last song to be performed by Pink Floyd together.
  • In 2011, Comfortably Numb was ranked 5th in the BBC Radio 4’s listeners’ Desert Island Discs choices.
  • Cover versions have been released by: The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Luther Wright, Graham Parker, Yes, Gregorian, Bruce Hornsby and The Scissor Sisters
  • Van Morrison has often sung the song as part of his live set even dueting with Roger Waters.
  • Comfortably Numb contains two lovely guitar solos by David Gilmour. One was voted the fourth best guitar solo of all-time by a reader’s poll in Guitar World magazine.
  • Comfortably Numb lyrics.

 comfortably numb – pink floyd – 1979 – video

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8 Responses to Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd – 1979

  1. finnattic says:

    Great choice GK! Certainly their best piece of music, music that one can become totally immersed in. Far better version if you can find it was Omni Atlanta 1987. Maybe if you had gone to The Wall you might have got a better appreciation of their music?

  2. Wozza says:

    Okay – spill! You can’t dis one of the greatest albums ever and get away with it without a well argued explanation which I will then rebute. So…spill!

  3. Miki says:

    I often think that much of the British and even some USA stuff, as much as we in NZ all loved it, may have held different meaning if you were living in the UK or USA at the time. It’s still happening that down here we seem not to be as (dis)affected by world politics and other forms of general angst – and may be we don’t wish to be – quite a relief really?!

  4. Greg.K says:

    That is true. And I think that there are many songs which younger people listen today without understanding the background to it. I was thinking about this as after I’d spoken to a teenager about The Who’s “My Generation” and the lyric, “I hope I die before I get old.” That was a sentiment that was very much embedded in that and the punk era.
    BTW – this youngster had just heard My Generation by an American band and didn’t realise it was a cover!

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