An Interpretation of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” In 1965, Cambridge, England natives Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason formed a psychedelic band known as Pink Floyd. The band produced one album under the leadership of Barrett. David Gilmour was brought in as a fifth member to enable Pink Floyd to continue performing live after Barrett proved incapable to remain lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and lead songwriter. Three short years after co-founding the group, Syd Barrett left the band, due to mental instability, allegedly resulting from heavy drug use.
The band regrouped, kept Barrett’s vision, and became even more successful as an acid-rock band. Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Dark Side of the Moon, a tribute to Barrett, remained on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart longer than any other album in history. The album featured a song, “Brain Damage,” based on Syd Barrett’s mental idiosyncrasies. The song, “Brain Damage,” is metaphorically indicative of a person’s journey to insanity. The meaning of the song is reflected in the title.
Had the title been “Dark Side of the Moon,” the reader would interpret the song quite differently. If a person’s brain is damaged, he/she does not meet society’s standard of normal. At the beginning of “Brain Damage,” a “lunatic is on the grass” in view of the speaker, who works at a mental hospital (1). Insanity is only a thought at this point. The speaker remembers a happier time when he was a child and the main goal in life was to have fun (3). Now, the speaker must keep the patients of the hospital in line (4). The patients symbolize his thoughts.
He cannot let his guard down to have a good time for fear of looking crazy to society. He must focus on his responsibilities and try not to stray from his duties because of his desire to blend in with normal people. If he lets his thoughts run wild he will become overwhelmed and break down mentally. Insanity is drawing nearer when the speaker states “The lunatics are in my hall” (5-6). He realizes he is different from everyone else and may not be considered sane. He knows that he is on the verge of a mental breakdown. Anything could send him to the point of insanity.
The speaker avoids reality at all costs. He lets the daily newspaper pile up where the paper boy tosses them (7-8). The speaker does not read the newspaper for fear of learning something that will disturb him so much that he falls off his rocker. He had rather live in ignorance than gain knowledge and be forced to think about the terrible truth of what is going on in the world. The speaker believes that ignorance is bliss. The line “And if the dam breaks open many years too soon” (9), leads the reader to believe that the speaker is young or middle aged.
This line means that if someone fills their head with “dark forbodings” before they are old enough to understand the way of the world, they will definitely become insane (9-11). If the speaker strays from the normal path and he does not fit in with society, his life will fall apart. In verse thirteen, the lunatic has invaded the speaker’s head. He has evidently strayed from his routine and filled his head with negative realistic thoughts. He has become one with the lunatics when he states “the lunatic is in my head” (13-14).
The lunatics are no longer outside or in the hall, they are within the speaker. As these two lines are read, laughter can be heard in the background. The speaker is no longer battling the insanity. He surrenders to the voices in his head and instead of hiding that he is different, he embraces it. The speaker’s newfound freedom has been discovered by the normal people in society. Someone has had him committed into a mental hospital (15-16). He tells the doctor performing the lobotomy “You raise the blade, you make the change/ You re-arrange me ‘til I’m sane” (15-16).
The speaker has been put in a padded room after surgery and feels as if the nurses “lock the door/ And throw away the key” (17-18). He knows he will never be released now that they have seen this side of him. The song reads “There’s someone in my head but it’s not me/ And if the cloud bursts thunder in your ear” (19-20). The speaker hears real voices in his head. He has tried explaining to everyone that he is not crazy and that the voices in his head are real. Unfortunately, no one will ever believe a certifiably crazy person; even if they shout,” “no one seems to hear” (21). Brain Damage” is summed up in two lines: “And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes/ I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” (22-23). The first line is referring to incidents when Syd Barrett was playing the wrong song when Pink Floyd was performing. From a lunatic’s point of view, everyone else is different or straying from normal. If someone is so far gone that they cannot see that they are the problem, they succumb to the illness and we’ll see them on the other side (23). The song ends with a voice saying “I can’t think of anything to say except…/ I think it’s marvelous!
Hahaha” (24-25). He is so overwhelmed by his revelations that he has nothing to do but laugh. He has gone insane by society’s standards, but I see him as enlightened. Pink Floyd — Brain Damage The lunatic is on the grass The lunatic is on the grass Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs Got to keep the loonies on the path The lunatic is in the hall The lunatics are in my hall The paper holds their folded faces to the floor And every day the paper boy brings more And if the dam breaks open many years too soon And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon The lunatic is in my head The lunatic is in my head You raise the blade, you make the change You re-arrange me ’till I’m sane You lock the door And throw away the key There’s someone in my head but it’s not me. And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear You shout and no one seems to hear And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon “I can’t think of anything to say except… I think it’s marvellous! HaHaHa! “