“Just an earth-bound misfit, I.” – Pink Floyd
The title today (and subsequent line) is actually one of my favorites from any 80’s song ever. What’s crazy is that I’ve never been a fan of Pink Floyd. And to be honest, this song comes from the only Pink Floyd album I’ve ever owned. I only own it (still have it on cassette) because my cousin Tina bought it for me either as a Christmas ’87 (or possibly birthday early ’88) gift. She was big into Pink Floyd if I recall. Prior to this album, my total knowledge of Pink Floyd consisted of knowing two songs – 1973’s “Money” and 1979’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II).” Those two songs and the common perception that Pink Floyd was “stoner music” was the extent of limited Pink Floyd knowledge around that time. I’m also sure at sometime pre-1987 I thought Pink Floyd was a person, but I think by ’87 I knew just enough to realize that it was a group even though I couldn’t have told you any one single member of the group at that time. (Side note thought: I wonder if the artist Pink has ever performed any Pink Floyd songs in concert? I’d much rather attend a Pink concert too if given a choice. Anyway, I digress.)
“Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything”
I follow a few different music blogs fairly regularly (links to a few of my favorites at the bottom of this post). They’re older bloggers (or shall I say “more mature bloggers”) like myself, so a lot of the music they feature and write about is right in my wheelhouse. One post recently featured a review of this particular album by Pink Floyd from 1987 titled “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.” I have to admit that when Tina bought me this cassette I had to feign excitement while curiously wondering if I would play it through more than once. I would have never bought this album, but out of respect for my cousin Tina who I always thought was pretty cool, I was determined to give it a fair shot. And I was pleasantly surprised with the album and how much I enjoyed a few of the songs including today’s featured song “Learning to Fly.”
“A soul in tension that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try”
I was 16 or 17 listening to these lyrics and not really understanding that they are tailor made for those coming-of-age years. As a teenager, I think my soul was in tension a lot as I navigated the tricky world of being a teen as I worried about school and clothes and grades and sports and girls and what the next phase in life was going to look like. “Condition grounded” was a common phase for many of my friends. Groundings for missed curfew or poor grades or poor attitudes. My few groundings were mostly for lack of acceptable grades though I also was grounded once for skipping my afternoon classes when I was a senior. But feelings of being grounded persisted in general for most teens just from the fact of living at home under your parents rule dreaming of the day you’d be living on your own.
The one thing about these Pink Floyd lyrics is that they can be interpreted many ways, and I think that’s the mark of a complex, well-written song. It’s no surprise that I think of my self-described gypsy-nurse cousin Tina when I hear this song. Our paths have crossed a few times through the years, but it’s been nearly five years now since I last saw her.
Around the time I was a senior at Norman High School in 1988-89, she was taking courses at Oklahoma University and working at the McDonald’s not too far from campus. My best friend Barry and I went there to bother her late one night, video camera in hand, during Christmas break.
I think it was Tina who told me she would occasionally skate on the frozen hamburger patties late at night on the McDonald’s floor. Remember that the next time you stop in for a late night burger. We also met up again at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a few years later where she lived in the same dorm (Haskell Hall) just a floor above me for about a semester before she mysteriously disappeared. I remember seeing her in her little convertible, bandanna around her head, and sunglasses covering her eyes as she and her girlfriends would drive off to who knows where. I saw her again at Grandma Ruby’s 100th birthday celebration in Norman in August of 2016, and that’s the last time I’ve seen her in person.
“Above the planet on a wing and a prayer. My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air.”
Coincidentally (or not), Tina is now a Fight Nurse, so she apparently spends a lot of time above the Earth’s surface in a helicopter helping to save people. I see her posts on Insta so I know she’s in Tulsa for the time being, but I may see her scroll one day and she may be in New Mexico or Colorado or Cali. There’s no telling with Tina. She’s travelled much (thus the “gypsy-nurse” moniker), and she’s lived an interesting life of which I know very little of. Our grandma Ruby referred to her on more than one occasion as “a free spirit.” True words indeed and ones I’m sure Pink Floyd followers could relate to back in 1987.
“There’s no sensation to compare with this. Suspended animation, a state of bliss.”
So when my eyes take to the circling skies and they spot a medical chopper, my kudos, my appreciation, admiration, and most of all my thanks go out not only to my cousin Tina, but to all of the flight nurses everywhere that are suspended in animation on a daily basis helping to save lives, and to make this revolving rock a little safer.
“A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night”
The song only reached #70 on the Billboard Hot 100, though it was a #1 hit on the Billboard Rock Tracks chart, but I did enjoy this video anytime it popped up on MTV. It won a MTV Video award for “Best Concept Video” in 1988, and features a young indigenous male wielding a sickle at the beginning of the video. You don’t see that everyday, but cutting through wheat like they used to do does not look like a very fun job. I’ve never tried it, but I actually own an antique sickle like the one he’s using in the video. I inherited it somewhere along the way over the years and now it sits in a storage unit. Another artifact determined to grow old in the shadows.
The wheat field, the airplane, the feathers, the silly old man dancing around, the conversion into a red-tailed hawk after leaping from a mountain – I like it all. I thought the videography was fantastic in this video directed by Storm Thorgerson. Written primarily by David Gilmour, but also by Anthony Moore, Bob Ezrin, and Jon Carin, here is Pink Floyd with Gilmour on lead vocals and a video shot outside of Calgary, Alberta, it’s “Learning To Fly…”
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to thank a nurse one day soon.
an earth-bound misfit from the 80’s
Oh, and as promised here are some of my favorite music blogs, so check them out:
Thanks for the shout out. I loved how you told this one with the personal stories intertwined with the PF lyrics. Very nice!
Thanks man. Sometimes it’s cool how posts naturally come together.
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