Nearly 40 years ago, “Comfortably Numb” was released. But time hasn’t diminished its brilliance. It’s one of the tunes that helped Pink Floyd cement their place in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll. Although David Gilmour and Roger Waters had their share of disagreements, their creative partnership on “Comfortably Numb” is one to remember.
It was well known that they constantly disagreed about who should be the group’s primary creative power. Gilmour had one desire while Waters had another. Since “Comfortably Numb” was a group project, Waters and Gilmour both created their individual renditions of this timeless song after the band disbanded.
Following the release of his first solo album, Gilmour first came up with the song. It was just intended to be a demo at the time. The lyrics were written by Waters, and they were inspired by his experience getting tranquilizer shots before a 1977 Pink Floyd performance in Philadelphia, which he later recounted as “the longest two hours of my life.”
David said, “I never get to the ‘I have become comfortably numb’ bit, because Roger said he wanted to put that line in as a lyric, and I had to write the extra bit there and then.”
Conflict characterized the whole production, which is not shocking. Nearly everything was a point of contention between Waters and Gilmour, even how to record the song.
Gilmour desired a grungier vibe and a rougher sound, but in the end, they decided for Waters’ preferred introduction and Gilmour’s last guitar solo, which turned out to be one of the song’s highlights.
Gilmour had greater creative leeway to innovate and go against the grain once Waters left Pink Floyd. He sang the lines, which were sung by Richard Wright, Guy Pratt, and Jon Carin, in a grunge-style.
In 1990, Waters performed “Comfortably Numb” for the first time since Pink Floyd with the assistance of Van Morrison, Rick Danko, and Levon Helm of The Band. Snowy White and Rick Di Fonzo played the guitar solos. This variation was used in movies and television shows.
Which version do you like, then?