Start of the song – we can hear a distant radio conversation in the background.
The main character is listening to a song starting in the background and sighs. Then after it goes on for a bit, he picks up the guitar and plays the epic intro solo we all know so well.
As the solo ends, the radio blends into the full studio mix. The singer starts singing the first verse: “So, so you think you can tell Heaven from hell? Blue skies from pain? Can you tell a green field From a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell?
The first verse describes a situation that implies a sense of delusion, maybe a man drunk on power, or one who has lost touch with reality. The ability to discern. We don’t know for sure yet. The style implies a slight rhetoric questioning – as if there’s underlying criticism.
Second verse: “Did they get you to trade Your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change? Did you exchange A walk-on part in the war For a leading role in a cage”
Now if it weren’t clear in the first verse, we can see there’s a deep criticism. The singer from the start sitting in front of the radio may be remembering an old friend that changed… but now lost his morals and values that once held them together.
The last line hits the hardest: “Did you exchange A walk-on part in the war For a leading role in a cage” Maybe the person in question has sold out, sold his soul, for money or fame.. he is no longer in the trenches with his old friend – fighting the good fight.
Now comes the climax of the song: “How I wish, how I wish you were here We’re just two lost souls Swimming in a fish bowl Year after year Running over the same old ground What have we found? The same old fears Wish you were here”
This last verse shows us how powerful a bond can form between two friends. It is clear that this is not a romantic relationship, but a brotherhood. They both once shared mutual goals but time and life drifted them apart.
They are both just “Two lost souls” who are still very similar and share deep love to one another. The distance between them may be too large in reality, but they both wish there was a way to change that. To turn time back around. To be together one last time.
My personal insight and interpretation of this masterpiece… If you have someone you love but life has drifted you apart, maybe this is a chance to reconcile the relationship. To make amends, before it’s too late.
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