I would never have expected to hear Pink Floyd at a wedding. Then again, I don’t think I ever expected my friend Kirk to get married, either.
Kirk was one of the tight-knit band of young men and women who basically lived at my college newspaper 20 years ago. He was smart, charming and quick-witted, and a house party at his apartment never ended without his breaking into a couple of show tunes.
He was also, among those who knew him best, commonly thought to be gay.
It was a hunch based, as much as anything else, on the fact that he was the one guy in the newspaper office who wasn’t either hooked up with a girl or actively trawling for one. After enough booze-soaked parties and incestuous morning-after stories (familiarity, as they say, breeds attempt), these things get noticed.
It wasn’t meant as a judgment on our part: Whether he was or wasn’t, we valued his friendship and liked him just fine. A bunch of us from the college paper ended up married to each other, and from the security of married life, we stayed in touch with Kirk as he navigated what seemed to be the path of eternal bachelorhood.
Then, over time, things started to change.
One by one, states began to legalize same-sex marriage. Those decisions withstood the inevitable challenges. And gay and lesbian couples began to step forward and take advantage of the rights (and responsibilities) open to them for the first time.
Last weekend, Kirk and his boyfriend Colby stepped through that door.
(I can’t speak for any of my fellow student journalists, but when I first heard about Colby, the I-was-right-all-along feeling faded quickly into gladness that Kirk had a partner. He is still a person of great charm, intelligence and wit; it is immensely fine to know that he’s found someone who loves and cherishes that, and whom he can love and cherish in return.)
Anyway, Kirk and Colby tied the knot … and that’s how I found myself in a science museum in Cambridge, Mass., waiting with a roomful of like-minded family and friends, and listening to the selection of old Pink Floyd tunes the couple had chosen to entertain the crowd before the ceremony started.
There were a couple tunes from Dark Side of the Moon; one of the band’s early instrumental space jams (“Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” I think); and “Stay,” a lulling, somewhat melancholy ballad sung in the gentle English accent of keyboardist Rick Wright.
Obscured by Clouds, which includes “Stay,” is the only Pink Floyd album I own on CD. Since I got back from Cambridge, I’ve found myself playing it more and more.
Obscured by Clouds, released in June 1972, is chiefly memorable for two things. It’s the soundtrack to a French movie called The Valley, which you’ve probably never seen. And, it was the last Pink Floyd studio album before Dark Side. Dark Side, released the following March, would transform the band from faceless Limey space-rock journeymen to international headline performers and, eventually, cultural touchstones.
I’ve never been hugely impressed by the records Floyd made between the departure of founding frontman Syd Barrett and the advent of Dark Side. To my mind, they tend to be meandering and kind of dull. The short tunes lack the punch or melody that came later, while the band lacked the chops or creativity to make its extended spacey jams truly take flight.
I took a cheap flyer on Obscured by Clouds in a used-CD bin many years ago, thinking it had the glint of a diamond in the rough, and it might change my mind.
As of this week, it still hasn’t. The instrumentals tend toward the repetitive; Dave Gilmour’s slide-guitar playing is rough around the edges, and Nick Mason’s drumming lacks any edge or propulsion. Only “Stay” and Roger Waters’ jaunty-mordant “Free Four” stick in the mind after the record’s end.
(It is perhaps harsh to judge Obscured by Clouds by what came afterward. According to Wiki, the album was recorded in two sessions totaling three weeks, wedged between early work on Dark Side and a Japanese tour. Those are the sorts of conditions that lead musicians to empty the unused riffs out of their trick bags and grind out a record, saving their good ideas for the “real” album they’re working on. Still, the Floyd chose to put out Obscured; they didn’t have to. Since they chose to put their name on it and send it out to the shops, it has to stand alongside their other work.)
I do not think anyone listening to Obscured by Clouds in the summer of 1972 — even in Denver, where it seems to have been remarkably popular — would have predicted that Pink Floyd would someday be inescapable on classic-rock radio; possessors of one of the best-selling albums of all time; known by name the world over; influential on later performers in a variety of genres; and millionaires many times over.
But times change, and circumstances develop, and blossoms bloom, and life takes fortuitous turns. Kinda like it did for my friend Kirk and Colby, who are newly embarked on a shared journey they probably thought they would never see.
I never thought I would use Dark Side of the Moon as a shorthand signifier for the dawning of marital happiness, or happiness of any sort. (Matter of fact, it’s all dark.)
It is my hope, though, that all applicable tides have turned; that uncertainty and obscurity have given way to confidence and success; and that fate will now smile on my charming old friend and his life partner.
Make that husband.