image from planckmachine.com
Writer(s): David Gilmour, Roger Waters (see lyrics here)
First Charted: 12/3/1988
Peak: 24 AR (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales *: -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Radio Airplay *: --
Video Airplay *: 216.9
Streaming *: --
* in millions
Pink Floyd bassist and songwriter Roger Waters was suffering from hepatitis before a 1977 show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. SF A “sleazy Philadelphia doctor” RS500 gave him a sedative for the pain, thinking it was a stomach disorder. “That was the longest two hours of my life,” Waters said. “Trying to do a show when you can hardly lift your arm.” RS500 Even though he couldn’t focus, fans were so busy screaming that they didn’t care. Pink Floyd’s subsequent album, The Wall, (which featured “Comfortably Numb”) explored the theme of alienation between the band and its audience. SF
The experience shaped the song “Comfortably Numb,” which also incorporated an experience he had as a child when he was sick with a fever. As an adult, Waters would get that feeling again on occasion and enter a state of delirium when he would feel detatched from reality. SF He said the lines, “When I was a child, I had a fever/ My hands felt just like two balloons,” were autobiographical.
Guitarist David Gilmour crafted the music while he working on a solo album in 1978. Gilmour’s second guitar solo in the song has often appeared in polls of all-time best guitar solos, even topping the list of a 2006 list by TV music channel Planet Rock. SF He and Waters argued over two versions of the song, finally compromising by editing two takes together. SF Gilmour said the song was made up of the dark (represented by lines like “Hello, is there anybody in there” sung by Waters) and light (lines like “When I was a child…” sung by Gilmour). SF It was the last song the two wrote together SF and the last song ever performed by Waters, Gilmour, and bandmates Richard Wright (keyboardist) and Nick Mason (drummer). WK
In the movie The Wall, “Comfortably Numb” accompanies a scene in which the rock star Pink goes into a catatonic state before a show and is drugged up to get through. It recalled the experience the band had when original member Syd Barrett was kicked out of the band in 1968 after becoming mentally ill. SF
Resources and Related Links:
Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.