Pink Floyd Welcome To The Machine, A Personal Reflection

We recently had a themed weekend on the Facebook Now Spinning Group where we picked tracks which highlighted an instrumental break not played on a guitar. I picked Welcome To The Machine by Pink Floyd which can be found on the album Wish You Were Here from 1975

The song features a synthesizer keyboard solo from Richard Wright. This song and that particular instrumental break means a lot to me and helped me through an unhappy part of my life, giving me hope and the drive to push forward.

In 1975 I had left school and was about to start my first job. In the mid-70s, most comprehensive schools had little imagination when it came to career choices. Every option seemed to lead to working in a factory of some kind.

I was so against working in a factory and following the life my Dad had. The song Welcome To The Machine seemed to highlight my fear or where my life could be heading. However, I realised later that the lyrics were about a musician, who had made it in the music business and now saw the music business as a machine! I did not interpret it that way. When I was 16 in 1975, I saw it entirely differently.

I saw the line about “you bought a guitar to punish your ma” about the way I was buying guitars and wanted to be a professional musician. I was rebelling against following the path of all my peers and so thought I could escape following them into a factory. So why I was looking up my options of becoming a professional musician, I chose to train as an Electrician!

I had this idea that electricians walked around with white coats on with a screwdriver in the top pocket. I was so wrong! Within the first few months of me starting my first job, I found myself in a place called Halladays Drop Forgings, which is just outside of Aston in Birmingham. (This is also the birthplace of heavy metal thanks to Black Sabbath).

This particular factory seemed to be the loudest place on earth, dark and full of thick black smoke with the smell of oxides, interspersed with sparks and crashing sheet metal.

It was so loud that you couldn’t talk, you had to shout to talk to anyone. This track by Pink Floyd was like a lifeboat, it was something to follow, it offered hope.

There were two instrumental sections in the song both of them driven by Richard Wright although David Gilmour features in the first one. It builds up through this crescendo of notes and then it goes back into the last verse.

I felt this song was talking to me, catching the 11A bus back home with my hands still black from the days work. I felt I was in the worst possible place.

Then towards the end of the song the second instrumental sections arrives, this is the synthesizer solo by Richard Wright. It is full of melancholy and anguish without saying a physical word. There are two solos played at the same time, one is slightly behind the other which really adds to the emotional pull of the music.

I played this over and over again when I came home, it set me up and diffused the day that I’d had in the factory. The music helped me even knowing that I was going back the next day, it pulled me through to the other side.

It is amazing how some songs are like personal diaries to what we go through in our lives. To this day the solo on Welcome To The Machine by Pink Floyd still revokes back that time and also makes me very grateful for the fact that I did leave that world and move onto better things.

Phil Aston | Now Spinning

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