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gambitking's avatar

Pink Floyd Lyrical Lore: What is the 'silent freeway' ?

Asked by gambitking (4201points) May 13th, 2009

Pink Floyd’s song “One of My Turns”, from the Wall album, contains the phrase “contemplate the ‘silent freeway’”. What is the ‘silent freeway’ ? For a bit of context in case you’re unfamiliar. A frightened groupie girl is running around his hotel room in horror from this crazed rock star who sarcastically asks if she’d like to ‘contemplate the silent freeway’.

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8 Answers

BookReader's avatar

…i would think it is much like a “lonely highway” or “one way street” versus a “two-way street”... “My Way or the Highway! You are with us or against us and by all by yourself!”

Darwin's avatar

It seems to me that he is asking her what she wants to do to spend or waste time. He asks:

“Would you like to watch TV?
Or get between the sheets?
Or contemplate the silent freeway?
Would you like something to eat?”

I would imagine this is at night, so one of the options is to stare out the window at the streets below, including the freeway which is quiet and all but empty late at night. I don’t think it means anything more than that, although it leads to the questions:

“Would you like to learn to fly?
Would ‘ya?
Would you like to see me try?
Would you like to call the cops?”

This sounds as if the main character is considering either throwing the groupie or himself out of the window, committing suicide by splattering a body on the empty streets below. The combination does a good job of showing the desperation that the main character is experiencing, and possibly even expressing how out of control he is mentally.

Other people seem to use the phrase to mean that something is wrong with the world because the freeway should always be busy but now it isn’t. One blogger uses the phrase when he is writing about a massive explosion that has shut down his city. Although he isn’t affected directly by the blast, he is affected by the strange emptiness of streets that should be bustling.

gambitking's avatar

I’m surprised so few answers have appeared… but at the same time it’s a tough question with a unique niche. Still, I think there’s more….

@Darwin, thanks for the thoughtful answer, but the typical trend for Floyd doesn’t fit with the idea that it’s just simply staring out the window. They don’t usually drop profound statements like that which seem to sound like a popular adage, with the expectation that everyone will know what he’s talking about.

This is a very sarcastic connotation here. In the movie, when he says “Would you like to watch TV”, he’s throwing the TV at her. “Would you like something to eat” is accompanied by the entire room service cart being hurled at her head.

I dunno, maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Wonder if Horus will offer his two cents, being the fellow Floydian he is.

Darwin's avatar

This guy thinks it is the afterlife, so perhaps Pink is offering to kill her. Or himself.

“The Silent Freeway”

What it would be like in another land
Where all you could see
Is blue skies and white sand
The people all look the same
And they’re all in the same gang
Like brothers and sisters
There ain’t no shame in THIS name game
There ain’t no need for fame
The Creator
Does not allow false idols
So there’s no one greater
Than Him
So throw your ego aside, in this hemisphere
Love is all around
There’s no jealousy, guilt or fear
Burdens which are heavily on our backs
In our bodily form
Sometimes I wonder why I was born
When I stop
And look at my life, as it is now
I ain’t really got nothin’
Except for some know-how
My family life ain’t much to speak of
It reeks of
Non-communication and stubborness
And weak love
Momma’s so far away
And Dad is in Cali
Why does grass look greener
On the other side of the valley?
It’s just a deception
To keep someone guessin’
Why does life give answers
Then suddenly change the question?
It seems so unfair
And yet we keep on
Just survivin’
Although one day
We’ll all be gone
And enter The Freeway
From stage right
Except there’s no exit
But no need for stage fright
We’ll all be taken care of
And given much leeway
Together forever
Once we join on The Freeway.

(Freeway…The Silent Freeway)
Together forever on the…
(Freeway…The Silent Freeway)
No madness, just gladness on the…
(Freeway…The Silent Freeway)
It’s MORE than a dream, the…
(Freeway…The Silent Freeway)
Where peace can be seen.

Picture a freeway
Where no one can get hurt
No pavement
No need for it
Just bare feet and dirt
Walkin’ for miles and miles
Never gettin’ tired
No person’s better than another
We’re all equally admired
Not like life
Where everyone is competin’
Tryin’ hard to be the best
Not worried about who they’re beatin’
When one steps on another
To get to the top
In this life, they may succeed
But in the next, they’ll get dropped
Into the pit
Of the fiery furnace
And burn, meanwhile
The one to laugh last laughs best
And avoids exile
But now, look at the world
The Creator has planned
He also planned its destruction
And He labelled it Man
Radiation, pollution and discrimination
Why is peace nothin’ but another dream
To this nation?
Gang-bangers and crack slangers
Murder and robbery
Third world nations
Livin’ in depression and poverty
Not just there, it’s everywhere
From deep in L.A.
To the boroughs of New York
I don’t see it goin’ away
It’s a plague spreadin’ fast across the land
And we’re sinkin’ like quicksand
It’s hard for me to be a man who understands
Just what to do
With a nation that’s facin’
When our law-makers are all basin’
It’s vital
For me not to think suicidal
Cuz if I went out like that
I’d have no title
And gettin’ to The Freeway
Would be just a dream
Cuz down is the alternative
Where no one can hear you scream.

Freeway…Together forever on The Freeway
Our life will be better on The Freeway
It’s more than a dream…The Freeway
There’s only one King.

The year…1974
One more
Victim brought into the world
Right after a war
A bouncin’ baby boy
His parents are overjoyed
Although it’s a Kodak moment
Get the Polaroid
But with all good times
Comes many hardships
When daddy’s busy drinkin’
While his boy’s still an infant
Then worse comes to worst
And mommy just can’t take it
They get a divorce
NOW how’s their boy gonna make it
Through the rest of his life?
Not knowin’ if he’s comin’ or goin’
Learnin’ right from wrong on his own
Cuz there’s no one to show him
Only his grandparents
Who ain’t no help to him
They only tell him things
That THEY think should be gettin’ through him
Simply too overprotective
That describes ‘em best
Now mommy’s got a new man
Damn! His life’s a bigger mess
Movin’ first from an apartment
And then
To a bigger house in the city
Then they move AGAIN!
Could this really be the best for…
Well, we’ll say “Vincent”
Names have been changed
To protect the innocent
Anyway, time goes on
And life’s gotten worse
Vinnie’s spendin’ a lot of time
Thinkin’ about a hearse
And what it would be like
To become its passenger
Once he’d been visited
By the Lord’s Messenger
He thought of The Freeway
And enterin’ Paradise…
But would he really get there
If he chose to end his life
In an unnatural way?
In other words, suicide
He thought some more…
“That ain’t the way REAL men died”
Decidin’ to survive
His life got MORE complicated
He left his home
And his stepdad, who he hated
But leavin’ his home
Made him feel MORE alone
He’s also leavin’ his mother
Now all that’s left is the phone
But Vinnie didn’t have the courage
To make the call
So, there’s no communication at all
And what about his poor brother?
The child’s only 3
Without a brother he knows he has
How will HIS life be?
So now Vinnie lives with his grandparents
Who bug him
And nag, and bitch…
He’d love to just slug ‘em!
But nah, just stay cool
Don’t go out like a fool
Ignore ‘em
Just try to keep your mind on school
You’re in your last year
Plus you got a girlfriend who’s dope
Bam, boom, pow!
And you hope
That this special relationship
Lasts forever and ever
You love her so much
You never met no one better
She’s all you need now
If she ever leaves
Your life does, too
It’s rather grim
But grimness is what you’re used to
But that’s enough thinkin’ for now
Til another day
Later for The Freeway.

crgraham's avatar

I have been wondering about this line, which is what lead me to this site, since there aren’t many answers, I’ll offer up one. While pondering, I had the impression that the silent freeway lies only after mankind’s destruction and the contemplation would therefore be contemplating mans demise.

bigdaddy5150's avatar

Have listened to Floyd for a long time and this lyric always nagged me because I don’t think it was ever meant to be literal.

One night, quite high actually the answer came as an epiphany at least to me. The silent freeway is reference to one of the eternal questions that mankind has always asked: where do I go after this? (When I die). The silent free way is thus the traveling of souls to the next…whatever. If you think about how many people die on this planet every minute it is indeed a highway both invisible and silent. It symbolizes the deep thought of our very existence and Roger is one deep dude. Probably will make more sense if you fire one up and think about it

bloodhorse's avatar

You must remember this album was released long before the internet was common knowledge. Certainly it existed back then and was for example how banks could communicate electronically. This was the technology only then coming to be known to the public and was often referred to as “the silent freeway”.

Patrick_Rasmussen's avatar

The internet.

In the late 70’s early 80’s it was privately known that the connection of computers was taking place it just wasn’t global and it didn’t have a name. It eventually was named the world wide web but at the time “the silent freeway” was an English colloquial term amongst those in the know, for the internet.

It’s an allusion to Roger’s intellect that this was the sort of thing he enjoyed talking about with a girl he’d be trying to impress as the other sarcastic lines imply (had he not tacitly been attempting to dismantle her in reality.)

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