This has absolutely nothing to with Newts.
“Overhead the Albatross hangs motionless upon the air” so goes the first line that echoes the final track taken from the album ‘Meddle’ by Pink Floyd. Released in 1971 the year of my birth, though that is not relevant here. So far as I know this is the only connection between the band and the bird, though I may be wrong.
The wandering Albatross is a source of great inspiration to me and has been the content of dreams and artwork, some more of which is still to be realised. Flying ceaselessly over heaving oceanic swells and not touching land for years on end, to me it is like a soul seeking out it’s mate, it’s other half. Indeed these birds mate for life, two souls joining together to nourish each other, expand and grow together, in this life and into the next wherever that may be.
A few minutes ago I was listening to some Blues and realised I wanted to write, to do my bit of creativity for the day. If I was going to write about Pink Floyd and large seabirds then there is only one real way to do it and that is by listening to the music that goes with it. I have listened to the music of Pink Floyd since childhood, at one point or ought that be several points not much else would get through my headphones, obsessive behaviour if you like. When I was a child, there was a short lived comic called ‘Buddy’ that was basically crap, but it did have a free plastic toy with the first few issues to encourage sales. If my memory serves me well, one issue had a short piece entitled ‘Before they were famous’ There was about John McEnroe the tennis player. ( tThe one who had tantrums.) and how he rose to fame or whatever, I recall a drawing of him laying up against a wall listening to music through headphones with one of those speech bubble things saying. “Pink Floyd are a great band.” Now this was back in 1981 37 years ago. How I have remembered that is anyone’s guess. Whenever I first heard the band’s music is another matter altogether and what that music means to me is something else entirely.
The Albatross’ is one of the longest lived of all bird species, many individuals living upward of fifty years or more. In this time and as the birds mature they develop long ritualised dances which are perfected with time and as they find a mate. These dances as you might expect become unique to each breeding pair. The largest of these birds can have a wingspan in excess of eleven feet, the biggest of any bird species though the average is around nine point eight feet tip to tip. This huge wingspan enables them to enjoy prolonged flight without needing to flap its wings once indeed the only times when the bird does flap its wings is taking off and landing, being ill suited for continuous powered flight lacking the muscles and energy for such activity. This does in turn make them dependent on ocean waves and currents, being often forced to rest upon the ocean waiting for the weather to pick up again.
How many Pink Floyd fans waited for the band to pick themselves up again and play once more as a four piece band? I was one and watched their set on 2nd July 2005 in Hyde Park London like it was going out of fashion. In fact I still do, just to remind myself that it happened. Some people may remember 2005 as the anniversary year of Lord Nelson’s victory over the combined navies of France and Spain at The battle of Trafalgar. I can only imagine he and many other sailors of his era had the superstition that it was ill luck to kill an Albatross, the belief being that the bird carried the souls of drowned sailors on their journey to the afterlife. This superstition is given extra creedence in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Being the central emblem of this poem where a sailor is punished for the act of killing an Albatross by having a dead one hung around his neck to remind him and warn his fellows of the bad luck that must now follow him. Albatrosses have been described as “the most legendary of all birds”. They have been mythologised in poetry, music and legend since time immemorial.
Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant tide
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine
And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the where’s or why’s
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb towards the light
Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand the best I can
And no one calls us to move on
And no one forces down our eyes
And no one speaks
And no one tries
And no one flies around the sun
Life is simply gaily fallen
Upon my waking eyes
Inviting and inciting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning
And no one sings me lullabies
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky.