Did You Exchange A Walk On Part In The War For A Lead Role In A Cage?

Believe it or not, there is something marketers can learn from Pink Floyd’s album, Wish You Were Here. It stems from this important question, “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”

Syd Barret

How Syd Appeared While Fronting Pink Floyd

Wish You Were Here is a concept album about absence, about not being there. You see, Pink Floyd’s original singer, Syd Barrett was the band’s driving force. He was a powerful frontman who both the fans and the record company loved. But something happened to him that, back then, nobody could have predicted.

Barrett began taking extreme amounts of acid and something in him changed. He simply wasn’t there anymore. He would stand on the stage and stare out into space. This took a toll on the band and eventually they just had to continue on without him. They always hoped he would get well and “come back.”

After the band released Dark Side of The Moon, the album that made them a household name, they were struggling to record their followup record. They started writing a few songs about Syd and what had happened to him, which they felt was brought on by the pressures of fame and the greed of the record companies.

During the recording of the album, someone brought Syd into the studio hoping that it would serve as a form of therapy. What the band’s members saw was unrecognizable. He had gained over 100 pounds and lost most of his hair. This lead singer, this diamond that shined, had turned into something he would have never wanted or even imagined it possible to become. He was a casualty caught in the crossfire between childhood ambitions and fame.

How Syd Appeared During The Wish You Were Here Sessions.

In the lyrics of the song, Wish You Were Here, Roger Waters asks, “Did you exchange, a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”

What he’s asking here is are you doing the things that you want to do? Are you doing the things that you believe in, the things that you feel will be successful? Are you fighting the good fight? Or are you just doing what’s expected of you in exchange for money, an important title, etc. Is someone else controlling your future and your contribution to this world?

As people, we can’t thrive in an environment where we are caged, where we don’t have a say in what we are doing. Ultimately, it’s healthier to struggle and do what you believe in than be comfortable doing only what others say. We must choose a walk on part of in the war over a lead role in a cage.

So, here is the question I want you to think about.

[quote]Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?[/quote]

Comments

  1. Matt, ah, yes, one of the most important lessons in life — one which I learned somewhat painfully after I returned from Africa. There, I had achieved my dream by living through a real war (exceptional for a Canadian) — working as a journalist by snagging a sub-editor’s job on the Bulawayo Chronicle as Rhodesia turned to Zimbabwe. On returning home, facing the Reagonomics recession, I ended up at a government employment centre (administered federally in Canada), to find — with my recent African experience in mind — a job offer with the employment ministry.

    The government certainly paid a great salary for the time, the job had wonderful benefits, and the employment allowed me to move to Ottawa (something I wanted to do). But I quickly realized I was in a cage — and it is hard to break out of a “secure” cage for an uncertain life. Fortunately, I recalled the courage and adventure in Africa and ultimately made the break to self-employment.

    (This is much easier to do, oddly, in Canada than the U.S. We don’t have to worry about losing all our health insurance coverage and in a relatively high tax jurisdiction, self-employed people have a real advantage because of our ability to claim business expenses as 100 per cent deductions.)

    • Matt Handal says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for commenting. I’m glad you got something out of the post. It was a little bit of a departure for me. But after hearing this story, I felt there was something everyone could get from it.

      You only have one life, so make it great! More people should follow your example.

    • Gary Yarker says:

      OK a little abstract for me but if you see that and the connection then I guess that’s great. At first I sure didn’t get it though. You may now class yourself as a crazy diamond! Best regards from NE UK.

  2. Gary Yarker says:

    Oh Syd! A walk on part………… A lead role……….

    he could never be a lead role tied into dancing to the tune of the financial forces, he just wanted to send the message in song and lyric.

    Or am I wrong?

  3. Gary Yarker says:

    Shine on.

  4. It was written after Syd’s breakdown about Syd.

    Syd “retired” to a life of isolation, a world where he was the lead role and a “cage” of his own making.

    The walk on part in the war was just simply a generally a reference to life itself and specifically his position in the band.

    If Waters had been writing about the greed of record companies or selling out then his comments about Syd would have been positive because he walked away from it.

    • Curtis Scott says:

      I disagree. I think it was written about his father who died fighting in WWII. I have read that the choice was going off to war or putting up with Roger’s mother, hence: the walk on part in the war or a lead role in a cage.

  5. I love PF. One of my marketing profs in college used their lyrical lessons extensively. I remember him opening class one session with the line “Then one day you find 10 years have got behind you….”

    The memory of his opening line remains, but the lesson which followed was less memorable, as I can’t remember what class was about that day.

    Give me a break, it was 1988!

  6. Dan Steiner says:

    This line has always had me. In the most blunt way I’ve heard, it is simply a challenge to the listener. Only you can choose your path, and choose wisely. In the end you can be an idealist and a dreamer at heart, but if the life you live is in contradiction to what you love, you will never find joy.

  7. To me the song is asking of which is better, God, order, direction and obedience or the devil, freedom, do what ever you feel like and what ever makes you feel good. In life we are told we must chose God and a lack of choice means we “take the lead roll in the cage”. I wonder why must we chose one or the other? Why if we Don’t pick God must we follow the devil. Nibbles for thought.

  8. Anthony Lojo says:

    Syd Barrett was indeed a mastermind in his early years with the band. What some people are overlooking is that he had no choice anymore. So the question ‘Did you Exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage ?’ was something unavoidable for Syd. He was unfortunately afflicted with mental illness which wasn’t brought forth until his years with Pink Floyd. Most likely, he was pre-disposed to mental illness (probably schizophrenia) and it’s quite possible his heavy drug use was the trigger for making it rear it’s ugly head. However, the question is a valid one because sometimes the mere fact of someone being thrust into the spotlight and being on the receiving end of fame and attention is enough for a psychological illness to become reveal itself .. especially if that person has a pre-disposition or genetic marker in place. then again, maybe that’s a little too much thinking on my part. RIP Syd Barrett.

  9. Syd, was a genious, and most genious have some tremendous problems in handling their ups and downs. As John Cliff the famous English actor from Faulty Towers, many suffer from manic depressive mood swings. When the manic is up, it is all about creativity and talent, some don’t even eat because it breaks the flow of creativity, and it is very intense, then after that comes the depressive state and the genious can’t even get up from his bed. It happened with the band Beach Boys, the most talented one, fell very ill. So I believe that these blessings comes with a price. RIP Syd, we love you wherever you are, I WISH YOU COULD HEAR US!

  10. Rip Syd you are not in a cage. not with what the acid did or illness or even death. you are and will always be free… thank you for your mind

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