Under the current political climate, with President Donald Trump toying with a war against North Korea, playing fire with Russia over Syria, climate change disaster looming, and Britain's Theresa May calling for a general election to remorselessly steer Britain into a 'hard Brexit', today's song is a darkly humorous choice – one about deliberately setting about events to trigger disaster, perhaps in ways far worse than imagined.
This 1968 song from Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, is unusual, as it features all five members of the band, at that brief point while Dave Gilmour arrived and before Syd Barrett left, before the latter's drug and mental health problems triggered his departure. Here his guitar sounds are like groans, followed by seagull cries. This is also reported to be drummer Nick Mason's favourite Floyd track, on which he plays drums with timpani mallets.
The lyrics, supplied and sung by bassist Roger Waters, are taken from a translation of Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty translated by AC Graham. It includes Li He, whose poem Don't Go Out of the Door contains the line: "Witness the man who raved at the wall as he wrote his questions to Heaven" and Li Shangyin, whose poetry contained the lines, "watch little by little the night turns around", "countless the twigs which tremble in dawn" and "one inch of love is one inch of ashes." The title of the song comes from science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock's novel Fireclown, also known as The Winds of Limbo.
But perhaps the song's biggest reference is in how it inspired the fictional band Disaster Area in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy. Adams was also a friend of Gilmour. Disaster Area (how appropriate now and also for the history of Pink Floyd) are a "plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones, generally regarded as not only the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, but also as being the loudest noise of any kind at all." At one of their concert climaxes, they programme a spaceship to be sent crashing into the nearest star. Just for fun.
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