The first time I heard Pink Floyd, I actually thought it was Rick Dees.
My mom was driving me to work on a movie of the week, or a commercial, or some other acting job, and I was excited -- as always -- to stop at McDonald's for ultra-processed breakfast "food" while all my friends were in school, doing math like suckers.
"I want you to hear Rick Dees," she said, "I think you'll like him."
We were on the 170, driving toward Hollywood, just before the interchange with the 101. (Isn't it weird how some things like that stand out in your mind? I can see the mall and that big office building -- I think it was a bank with a big "S" in the name. Security Pacific, maybe?) She turned on the radio, and Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 came out of the Toyota wagon's speakers.
I instantly recognized it, because the other kids and I would sing "We don't need no education" in the playground, and Gilmour's guitar riff in that song was disco-perfect for an 8 year-old in 1980. I didn't know that it was Pink Floyd, or that Pink Floyd was even a band. I just figured it was Rick Dees, and for the next year or so, I assumed Rick Dees was the name of a band, not a DJ.
When we got into Hollywood, my mom asked me what I thought about Rick Dees.
"He's totally awesome," I said, blissfully unaware.
Later on, when I realized that Rick Dees was actually the guy behind Disco Duck, and when I became a KROQ teen instead of a KIIS FM kid, I felt a little foolish. I tried not to think of all the times I told my friends how awesome Rick Dees was, and how they should all listen to him because his music was so cool.
I told this story to Rick Dees on his late night talkshow Into the Night around 1989 or 1990, omitting the part about feeling foolish. All I got back was a blank look and some sound effects. It was perfect.
When I first heard Shine On You Crazy Diamond, I was listening to KLOS in afternoon traffic on my way home from Paramount in 1988. I was on Los Feliz, just passing Fern Dell, in my Honda Prelude. (This one is just as easy to recall as the other, but for different reasons. You don't forget the first time you hear that haunting guitar phrase, if you have any soul at all.) I was so moved by that song, I went straight to the record store and bought the CD. While I was there, I picked up Dark Side of the Moon.
"So you like the Floyd, eh?" The Record Store Man said when I checked out.
"Yeah," I said, afraid that there would be follow-up questions I couldn't answer. Thankfully, there were none.
When I got home, I listened to them both while I played Dark Castle on my Macintosh. Wish You Were Here was pretty cool, but something about Dark Side of the Moon really spoke to me. I recognized Money and Time from the radio, and thought they were cool songs on their own, but I was aware that the entire album had a theme, and it all just went together perfectly. I listened to it over and over again, and officially became a Pink Floyd fan. I went to a different record store, and bought as much of the catalogue as I could, including The Wall and Animals. I even picked up Relics, which was only available on cassette.
I was a weird case, I suppose. I liked Boingo and Depeche and The Smiths, but I also loved Pink Floyd and the Dead. And I wasn't a stoner. Go figure.
The first time I heard Animals, I was working on a show called Monsters. We were shooting in what used to be an auto shop in the middle of Hollywood, in an episode that starred me and a fresh off the boat actor named Matt LeBlanc. Yeah, back then, I was the big star and he was the wide-eyed rookie.
I was sitting in my school room, doing math like a sucker, when I put Animals into my CD player. I remember jumping up in my chair a little bit when Pigs (Three Different Ones) started, putting my pencil down, and just listening to the lyrics. When Shane Nickerson and I went to see Roger Waters at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this year, and he played Sheep, I jumped up in exactly the same way.
"Man, you are really a Pink Floyd fan, aren't you?" Shane said to me.
"Yes," I said, eager to answer all the follow up questions that didn't come.
In all these albums, including The Wall and The Final Cut, it seemed like Roger Waters was writing lyrics entirely for me, giving voice to a my own personal hopefulness that struggled to break through a thick layer of cynicism and irony. He did for me what punk rock did for a lot of my peers, and his lyrics are as meaningful to me today as they were when I was a teen, though for entirely different reasons.
Over the weekend, I watched a documentary from the Classic Albums series on the recording of Dark Side of the Moon. I already own the DVD, and I've watched it numerous times, but when I saw that it was on the television, I stopped what I was doing, sat down on the couch, and gave it my full attention. Watching the members of the band play bits of those songs now, and hearing them all talk about it, like they were sharing some great Saucerful of Secrets with me, still gave me a thrill. Sitting with Alan Parsons while he went through the mix was like watching Scorsese cut Woodstock, or Coppola cut Apocalypse Now. It was a rare case where seeing how the whole thing came together didn't take anything away from the final performance.
I came to a realization while I listened to Eclipse for the eleventybillionth time: Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite album of all time. There are classic albums that I love, like Kind of Blue (which, it turns out, inspired Great Gig In The Sky) and Abbey Road, Pet Sounds, and American Beauty . . . but there isn't another album that I can think of that I can listen to all the time, no matter where I am, what I'm doing, how I feel, or who I'm with. It took me nearly 35 years, but I finally have my Ultimate Desert Island Disc.
There's a strange sense of certainty that comes with identifying my favorite album of all time. It's at once entirely trivial and incredibly important, but is one of those very few things that I absolutely know about myself, and that brings me a great deal of unexpected peace.