Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd: Decoding The Song
Album- The Wall (1979) Lyrics & Verse Progression- Roger Waters Chorus Progression & Guitar Solos- David Gilmour
Anyone who knows anything about Guitar Solos definitely knows David Gilmour, the man whose fingers on a fretboard resulted in (Mus+Mag)ic that moved generations of progressive Rock admirers. Fuse that with Roger Waters' trippy and insightful lyrics and we get one of Pink Floyd's most famous songs : Comfortably Numb.
Lyrics: The album 'The Wall' revolves around an antagonized and estranged rock star called Pink. In Comfortably Numb he is medicated by a doctor so he can perform for a show.
The song is a dialogue of sorts. It begins with someone calling out, asking if somebody is in there. The person asks whoever is listening to nod if they can hear his voice. This suggests on how, whoever the speaker is expecting to respond(Pink in this case) might not be in a state to speak out loud. The person goes on to say how he knows the listener is in pain and how he can help in reducing it. He enquires some basic things like where is the listener hurting. We somewhat get a gist that the speaker is a doctor of some type. This is when the lyrics change over to Pink's narrative which also is the chorus of the song. Pink tells us about all these hazy and somewhat high sounding things he is experiencing. He says how there is no pain and how the doctor is receding like a distant ship's smoke on a horizon. He can't hear us. He recalls a fever he had in his childhood and how he feels like that all over again. He speaks of his inability to explain and our inability to understand him. He has now become comfortably numb but this is not how he is normally.
The doctor's narrative returns now. He consoles Pink and tells him it's going to be just like a pinprick. He might get a little sick but he believes it's working well and that it will get him through the show. We get to know that the doctor has provided him with medication of some sort. The chorus comes on again. We traverse through Pink's trippy visions and receding voices. He recalls a fleeting glimpse from his childhood. Something that disappeared when he looked for it again. Now he can't recollect what it was. The child within him has grown and the dream is gone. He has become comfortably Numb.
Roger Waters recalled how the inspiration for the song came from an incident that happened during the 'In the Flesh' Tour in 1977 in Philadelphia. Prior to a show he had stomach Cramps and was injected with Tranquilizers for relief. "That was the longest two hours of my life," Waters said, "trying to do a show when you can hardly lift your arm."
Music: Comfortably Numb is renowned for it's two guitar solos. Gilmour and Lee Ritenour used a pair of acoustic guitars with a high strung tuning but with the low E string replaced by a high E string, two octaves higher than standard. David combined various different solos he had been working on for the 2 incredible solos in this song. Gilmour used Big Muff distortions (it's a fuzzbox produced by a company called Electro-Harmonix along with it's Russian sister company called Sovtek) and delay effects for the solos. Bigg Muff was used for it's squeaky frequency responses. The verses are in B minor Key while the chorus has it's relative Major along with D major and a Mixolydian of D.