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The Song That Changed Your Life

Wish you were here by Craille Maguire Gillies

As part of The Song That Changed Your Life series, we asked writers from across the country (and those abroad) to tell us which song or piece of music is important to them. 

In her story, Craille Maguire Gillies talks about her father's obsession with Pink Floyd, how the family dog got nicknamed Beastie, and a funeral that hits the wrong note.

If someone passed a certain white stucco house on Ontario Street in the town of St. Marys circa 1980s, they might have heard the strains of David Gilmour’s electric guitar, the ka-ching! of a cash register at the beginning of “Money” or the keening of a woman at the end of “Time.” My father was not known for diverse musical taste; he played records by his favourite band, Pink Floyd, over and over. He also happened to be deaf in one ear, so the volume on the stereo was always pumped up. You could hear The Dark Side of the Moon from the sidewalk.

We are attracted to and reject the things our parents love. That music lingers in the part of my brain reserved for nostalgia because Pink Floyd was the soundtrack of my childhood. When our new mutt chewed a Pink Floyd tape on the way home from the Humane Society my father called him Beastie as punishment. That name stuck for all 16 years of Beastie’s life. 

As a kid I didn’t listen closely to the lyrics, which is probably for the better. They would only mean something once years and experiences accrued. What I remember most is their omnipresence. I remember how my father liked them almost to exclusion and how that mystified me. I remember the noise and the moodiness—David Gilmour’s and mine as I suffered through adolescence. I also remember my exasperation when my dad asked me to repeat something I said because he couldn’t hear me the first time. I thought he wasn’t paying attention. I thought he should just try harder.

He died young, my father did. At his funeral I begged off performing “Für Elise,” a song he liked to hear me practice on a piano my parents bought for $50. Instead, a stranger played classical music on a keyboard as we entered the funeral home. Everything was wrong—the fresh flowers on the table beside a framed photograph of my dad, the fluorescent lighting, the pianist playing songs my father never listened to. I remember thinking one thing would have made it better: if we put on “Wish You Were Here” or “Time” and sat in silence to hear what he heard. When I play it now I listen to the lyrics. The time is gone / The song is over / Thought I’d something more to say.

Craille Maguire Gillies is a National Magazine Award-winning writer whose work has appeared in enRoute, The Walrus, and Reader’s Digest. She lives in London, England, where she is working on a book about modern nomads, drifters and the meaning of home. Find her online at: themodernnomad.tumblr.com and craille.com.


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