When the Tigers Broke Free

Aprilia (Lt)

“When the Tigers Broke Free” is the best Pink Floyd song ever written. “Comfortably Numb” is the greatest, but not the best. There is a difference.

Credit for the song goes to the band member who, in the wake of Syd Barrett’s departure, began to write and direct more and more of Floyd’s output.

Roger Waters engendered animosity because he “took over” the band and ran it like some kind of dictator. The man who so often took aim at fascism was accused of being a kind of fascist himself. Floyd lore became filled with stories about Roger’s “my way or the highway” attitude.

The accusation is true, but there’s a reason for it. He brought most of the good material to the table while the rest of the band stepped back and let Roger do the heavy lifting. Roger was the one driven to work.

Roger’s treatment of Rick Wright, for example, illustrates his drive. Rick was “fired” for not bringing any useful material, and later, even Rick agreed with that assessment.

Rounds of lawsuits after Roger left solidified the grievances and hard feelings between him and David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Rick — wounds that were never fully healed even when they reunited for a Live Aid appearance in 2005. Body language after their short set concluded showed that the rest of Floyd wasn’t all that happy to be on stage with Roger again, while Roger himself seemed uncharacteristically ebullient.

Out of all the songs Roger created, his “When the Tigers Broke Free” remains a stark example of razor-sharp, absolutely perfect lyrics with its odd rhyming meter punctuating the song like the hurt and anger the singer feels, as a child tries to come to terms with the death of his father. Every line is a pointed dagger, aimed squarely at the truth of loss and pain.

They’re probably the best Roger ever wrote.

“It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black ‘forty-four
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives

And kind old King George
Sent mother a note
When he heard that father was gone
It was, I recall
In the form of a scroll
With gold leaf adorned
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp

It was dark all around
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z
They were all left behind
Most of them dead
The rest of them dying
And that’s how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.”

An evening with King Crimson

Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at the Greek Theater — the big eight-man big band beast lineup of King Crimson. Photography was not allowed during the show, but I managed a few pics before and after.

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King Crimson ticket

Greg Lake, RIP

Greg Lake, one of the founding fathers of progressive rock, has died of cancer at the age of 69. He was the vocalist, bassist & guitarist of Emerson Lake & Palmer, and fronted King Crimson on its 1969 debut album.

Prince on money

Harriet Tubman on the 20 dollar bill is an awesome idea. But I think we should also make a new bill that’s worth $19.99, color it purple, and put Prince on it.

Christmas songs I can stand

Working in broadcasting, the holidays can be very annoying. You’re assaulted by the same Christmas songs over and over… and when you’re on the air, you can’t turn off the radio. (“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. And please stop it with the Mariah Carey.)

But over the years, I’ve noticed a few that don’t make me want to jab a pen into my brain. It’s a very short list.

First up is my personal favorite, “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Now, there are a few different versions of this one. The single is attributed to Greg Lake, who wrote the tune. An album version is attributed to the group he was in at the time, Emerson Lake and Palmer. And being the faithful son of prog that I am, I am bound by a religious oath to like it.

There are a few versions floating around on YouTube. One is a ridiculously sped-up recording with what passed as a music video in those days. Another is a newer live version of Greg Lake singing in a church with some help from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. But this one is close to the actual album version I love, though for some unknown reason they’ve added a loud choir and orchestra, I’m guessing out of spite.

As far as “classics” are concerned, there’s one of them I never tire of, no matter who’s singing it. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is about as perfect a song as humans can make. There are way too many versions to choose from and I like nearly all of them, but I settled on Frank Sinatra’s because, hey, Sinatra.

And finally, we come to the king of the Christmas pack, a song so iconic and representative of the holiday it’s simply called “The Christmas Song.” And the best version is by, naturally, Nat King Cole.

Oh look, there’s time for one more. Okay, honorable mention goes to The Eagles and “Baby Please Come Home.” I’ve always loved the slightly bluesy, California rock feel.

Happy holidays!

WATCH: Music scientifically verified to appeal to cats. No, really.

The world can be a pretty crappy place. But at least there’s this: Music engineered and scientifically verified to appeal to cats.

The cellist behind this has a Kickstarter campaign, and proceeds will go to animal shelters. So it’s for a good cause, too.

WATCH: “Routine,” the most depressing song ever

Back in June Ronnie and I attended a show at the Wiltern by one of my favorite new artists, the former frontman of the band Porcupine Tree (and many other musical projects), Steven Wilson.

His solo albums are scarily good, and his most recent, Hand. Cannot. Erase., is one of the best albums I’ve heard in the last few years.

One song in particular stood out. “Routine” is written from the point of view of a wife and mother trying to survive an unimaginable tragedy, the loss of her husband and two children.

In the show, Wilson explained how much beauty there is in melancholy, and how he doesn’t “do happy music” because only sad music makes him happy. He related the story of when he sent “Routine” to his manager, his manager replied that it was the most depressing song Wilson had ever written, a fact which made Wilson very happy.

But most affecting was the animated video Wilson had a friend produce to go with the song, to be shown on the big screen during the concert. It was nearly impossible for anyone watching to keep their emotions in check once the point of the song became clear.

Wilson has finally publicly released the video. Here it is. I dare to watch and not get the feels.

By the way, here’s a video taken at the Wiltern show, with Wilson’s introduction.