Sorry, "Comfortably Numb" Isn't Drug-Related
Arguably one of Pink Floyd’s most celebrated and iconic songs, “Comfortably Numb” remains the choice of song for anyone familiar with hard substances or the movie producer who needs something reflective of uninhibited behavior. Hearken back to the 2006 film “The Departed,” and one remembers that sexy scene where Leonardo DiCaprio embraces his state-appointed psychiatrist in an act of wildly careening passions and emotions.
This common misinterpretation stands in stark contrast to the meaning that Pink Floyd sought to convey, which, according to the band, strayed closer to the poignancy of fever-induced delirium. The author of the lyrics, Roger Waters, offered a vision himself as a younger boy struggling with fever. Bearing this in mind, he suggested that “Comfortably Numb” merely represented his struggles with childhood ailments.
Let’s move on to the first stanza….
Is anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone home?
Here is where it’s easy to discern why so many people claim “Uncomfortably Numb” refers to mind-altering drug use. By the same token, a reader could better see these as early references to fever-induced sluggishness and recurring illness.
I hear you’re feeling down
I can ease your pain
Get you on your feet again
… and still this is easier to portray as the manifestation of a talking drug. How many drug addicts have been in a situation where it seems the only survival strategy is more drug use?
I’ll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?
Waters claims that this is the clearest indication of a doctor-patient or even parent-child relationship, and the surest way out of thinking that “Uncomfortably Numb” is steeped in drug use.
There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move
But I can’t hear what you’re saying
Who can’t recall “The Departed” to these lyrics, or the sexy, passionate scene that followed? Still, this isn’t what you think.
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain
You would not understand
This is not how I am
I… have become uncomfortably numb
The meaning seems nearly unmistakable by this point, as references to fevers, hallucinations, and vagaries would clearly indicate.
Just a little pin prick
There’ll be no more aaaaah!
But you may feel a little sick
And here’s where the two meanings collide in mutual resemblance. Who can distinguish between the pin-prick of a dirty needle and a vaccination?
The remainder of the song continues with references to a slow recovery, progression from illness, and the familiar imagery about ships on horizons. Now that you’ve received a proper introduction to Pink Floyd’s classic hit, will you ever think of it in the same way?