You Missed The Starting Gun: Pink Floyd and the Fear of Aging
Updated: Sep 13, 2021
One way or another, unless you live under the largest rock known to man, you’ve probably heard of the English psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. (If not, go ahead and look them up. I heard they’ve got a bright future!) If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably also heard of their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't at least SEEN the iconic black album cover, showcasing a single beam of light being propelled into a rainbow by a glass prism. Whether you saw it on a poster in a smoky college dorm room, or on the T-shirt of a “cultured” teenage girl, you know the one I’m talking about.
This is Patrick Star. He is the only exception. He does in fact live under a rock.
There are many who argue over which Pink Floyd song is their masterpiece. Some may say it is the acoustic guitar driven “Wish You Were Here”, the mellow “Comfortably Numb”, or maybe even the anthemic “Another Brick in the Wall”. I am not here to declare which song is their best. Rather, I would prefer to tell you which song of theirs has had the most profound impact on me. As you drag your finger down the track listing of The Dark Side of the Moon, when you arrive at the 4th song you’ll come across a track entitled “Time”. Coming in at 6 minutes and 53 seconds of run time, I believe this to be one of the most important songs to ever grace my ears.
The song opens with the ominous ticking of a clock, and then suddenly you are awoken by a slew of ear splitting alarms. Soon after you are greeted by one of the down-right eeriest intros of a song that I’ve ever heard. As a metronome clicks in the foreground, you are surrounded by single guitar notes played by David Gilmour and otherworldly drums drenched in reverb. It gives you a feeling as though something is coming, but you can’t figure out what IT is. A drum fill then leads you into the first verse and Gilmour immediately thrusts you into the “meat and potatoes” of the song.
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown Waiting for someone or something to show you the way”
The first bridge of the song (sung by Richard Wright) quickly follows as soaring vocal harmonies drape the background.
“Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today And then one day you find ten years have got behind you No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”
Very rarely do you come across a song that sums up the mindless state in which most people flow through life. One day you are young, living among the same streets that you roamed when you were a child. Except you’re no longer a child. Suddenly you look in the mirror and you’ve aged an ungodly amount overnight. But how is this possible? What felt like one night was ten years. Twenty years. Thirty years. Before you know it, you’re now grey and you haven’t fulfilled even half of the promises you made to yourself when you were a child. But that’s not a problem, right? You’ll just get to them tomorrow. After all, that is what you’ve been telling yourself your entire life. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
Following the first bridge, the song is ripped wide open by a David Gilmour guitar solo. For me this is one of the highlights of the song. It isn’t a simple, poorly thought out lead guitar part. Every individual note is telling you something, every note was meticulously thought out. Every note was placed in its exact location for a reason. It isn’t often that you can feel what the guitarist wants to say through their instrument, but this is one of the rare occasions when a solo displays just as much emotion as the lyrics. The piercing guitar tones symbolize the piercing realization that your life is quickly moving past you like a stranger in a crowd. Immediately after the solo you’re thrown right back into the 2nd verse by a shrieking Gilmour, followed by another soothing bridge by Wright.
“And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking Racing around to come up behind you again The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say”
It has happened. It has hit you that the best years of your life are now behind you, but regardless of how fast you can run the sun will catch you. Regardless of how fast you can live age will do the same. When you are a child, a single year feels like the absolute largest measurement of time. It was an eternity. As you age those same 365 days start to feel less and less significant, and the years start to blend together. People come in and out of your life, those dreams you had when you were younger slowly fade, and you’re faced with the harsh reality that this one life is the only chance you have to make an impact on this world.
The song continues on in a soothing, yet melancholic state. Eventually it draws to a close with the final lines insinuating that death has arrived, and it is in fact inevitable. The song leaves you wondering about the choices you’ve made, and what you can do to make the most of your remaining years whether they be few or many.
“Time” was one of those songs that I had heard a million times in my life growing up. With a mother who is a fan of Pink Floyd, I was bound to be exposed to their psychedelic sound and philosophical lyrics from a young age. That being said the lyrics never really hit home until I was on the back nine of my college years, and adulthood was slowly creeping upon the horizon. One day the song came on shuffle and just like that, it all clicked. What I take away from this song may be different from the next person, but one thing is certain and it’s that life moves undeniably fast. As the song states:
“And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”
Most people don’t even realize the amazing opportunity that this life presents until a good majority of their years are behind them. Each year on my birthday I go for a drive and make it a point to listen to this song. I use it as a kick in the ass. A subtle reminder to make the most of what little time I have on this Earth. It is only natural to fear getting older. But rather than focusing on the unknown of the future and accepting your life as what it is, live in the present and focus on making today the best day that it can possibly be. Find what you truly want to do in this life, and live as if you'll die tomorrow. When your time does in fact come, you'll have far less regrets. Something I told myself years ago was that I was going to set out to fulfill every promise I made to myself. I was going to make my own life, and not let anyone else make it for me.
When YOUR song is over, make sure there IS something more to say.