Last night, I heard “Run Like Hell,” by Pink Floyd, on the radio. This, sadly, is not an uncommon occurrence. Applying the pop-poseur rule, “Run Like Hell” is a poseur‘s song on The Wall. It is a step above the crowd-pleasing “Comfortably Numb,” but not quite at the true-fan level of “In the Flesh?” let’s say, or “The Trial.” What I find ironic, though, is that the song used to be a secret fan-favorite and never heard on the classic rock stations, but now is in heavy rotation, seemingly replacing the used-to-be-ubiquitous “Mother.” I remember my friend Joe and I discussing the song twenty years ago, perplexed at it’s absence from the airwaves, and calling our local rock station, requesting it played. Inevitably, they’d play “Mother” or “Comfortably Numb.”
At least it was from the same album. If we were feeling arrogant and punkish, which was quite often, we’d ask them to play “If” or “Free Four,” and they’d play “Mother; or “Comfortably Numb.”
On the radio: “This goes out to Deer Park for showing the world they love rock-and-roll.”
Music begins: “Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody IN there?…”
Me: “Wait, is that us? Are we Deer Park? We didn’t ask for [expletive-deleted] Comfortably [expletive-deleted] Numb! [Expletive-deleted]!!”
Joe and I were heavy Floyd-heads. In 1986, we saw Water’s Radio KAOS tour at the Garden. We were both way too young to do that unaccompanied, but we did we know? We spent the next four years acquiring the back-catalog, reading fanzines, debating the extent of Syd Barrett’s legacy. We drifted apart for various, awkward, teen-aged reasons, but then, when I was 22, we started hanging out again.
I remember, specifically, I was 22, despite my hazy memory, because that’s when I started my drinking career. I was the only one of my peers to start drinking after turning 21. Previously, I hated beer and I couldn’t abide by drug use. I was pretty uptight.
Joe, Erick (my best man), and I were in the City, at a place called The Slaughtered Lamb, which had gas lamps and unvarnished wood–very olde-English tavern-style. Joe, always the show-off, got himself a $12 bottle of Belgian beer. The stuff poured like maple syrup into his mug. I had to try it. It was, frankly and surprisingly, delicious. That was something I could get into. Luckily, I was poor, so I didn’t get myself a bottle. My love of beer would have to wait until that summer.
Where Joe and I went to some loud bar in Bay Shore. Did we know the band–was there some specific reason we went to that place? I don’t remember. Joe got himself a Sam Adams, and I was intrigued. I had never heard of it. It smelt like pine needles. I got myself a bottle. Oh, sweet nectar of the gods! What was this world that I was missing? To that point the only beers that I had tried were the watery, funky domestics and Heineken. No offense to the legion of Bud drinkers out there, but your beer sucks. And Heineken* is worse. My first beer was exceptional, and I haven’t been able to settle for less since then.
And Joe was there the next time my beer horizons expanded. That summer of Sam was packed full of amazing experiences, only some fueled by that amazing elixir known as alcohol, but that fall, Joe and I lose touch again for a couple years, I don’t remember why. But I do remember one cold winter’s night in Huntington. Joe and I walk into bar, mostly to get out of the cold. We were headed some place specific, and that wasn’t the place. But to take the chill off, we both order a beer.
Me: I’ll have a Sam Adams.
Bartender: Want a Winter Lager?
Me: Um. Sure?
Why anyone would deny anyone a Samuel Adams Winter Lager, I can’t imagine. That first sip was bliss from my chilled nose to my chilled toes. I warmed up immediately. I swear I have never taken a more pleasurable sip than that. When November comes around, I begin my perennial quest to find bars that have Winter Lager on tap. It helps, too, if they keep their screens clean. Winter Lager poured through a skunky screen turns into a bland brew. No one wants that. (Apparently, I’m still pretty arrogant. I’ve lost a bit of the punkiness, though.) So hearing “Run Like Hell” on the radio for the zillionth time still brings a smile to face. It reminds me of good beer, and great concerts, and Fourth-of-July fireworks from the rooftop of a restaurant at the marina. It reminds me of my friend Joe, and our crazy relationship. This next pints for you Joe–may you continue to run like hell.
*There is a story behind Heineken’s green bottles, which is marketing. In Holland, the bottles are brown. Why? Ever have it on tap? It tastes completely different. Green bottles don’t prevent skunk. Every bottle of Heinie that you’ve had has been skunky. Corona, too. That weird shaped neck on a Corona bottle? It prevents you from smelling the skunk. The lime? It’s to prevent you from tasting the skunk. Don’t drink beer from clear or green bottles. This has been a public service message from the Arrogant Beer Connoisseurs of America (ABC-USA).