The Wall

I had what I think of as an artistic coming-of-age moment while watching the Grammies when I was fifteen. That year, Pink Floyd’s concept album, The Wall, was up for Album of the Year. To me this was not even a contest. I had listened closely and repeatedly to The Wall, and by my estimation pop musicians could pack up their guitars and amps because the art form had reached its unequivocal apex in this album. I never watched the Grammies, but I would that year, if only to bask in the sympathetic glow of the world heaping praise and hardware on my team. I sat in a butterfly chair in my living room drinking grape juice and waiting, waiting, waiting for that moment. There was a lot of waiting. Album of the Year would be one of the last awards given. No matter, it would be worth it. It would be worth it to know that all the world agreed with me. At last the moment came. The presenter listed the finalists. I felt a strange thrill hearing him lean into the microphone and say, “Pink Floyd’s The Wall.” I felt like he had said my name. That done, he removed the envelope, opened it, and read the winner:

Christopher Cross.

Unbeknownst to me, Christopher Cross’s debut album was huge. Unbeknownst, because every time one of his songs came on the radio, I quickly changed the channel. I understood someone somewhere was interested his music, but it was nothing serious, nothing Pink Floyd needed to worry about at the Grammies. I do not want to diminish the devastation this caused. It was as if I was four and Walter Cronkite had just announced that there was no Santa Claus. It would be days before I could listen to Pink Floyd again just knowing that there were so many people who would rather listen to Christopher Cross.

For a time I tried soothing myself with the knowledge that the world was clearly inhabited by aesthetically colorblind rubes and at least I wasn’t one of them. But this brought little satisfaction. Eventually, I lost interest in Pink Floyd. They were too gloomy, and I was trying to cheer up. Perhaps the Grammy judges found them too gloomy as well. As for Christopher Cross, I have to admit that if Sailing or Ride like the Wind came on the radio, I’d still change the channel.

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