The riders that touring musicians inflict on venues are easy to needle. But as Jack White’s GuacGate showed us, riders serve more than just the performer. The silly-sounding shit in those glorified ransom letters can help an unsung hero of the show.
A newly unearthed rider, courtesy of The Smoking Gun, at first glance falls into the WTF category. Alongside the single bag of Goldfish and box of misspelled Nilla Wafers, Pharrell Williams requires “1 Framed Picture of Carl Sagan” in his dressing room. He lists it twice. Although it seems unusual, if Williams truly draws inspiration from the legendary astronomer, let him have it! Look at a Cosmos excerpt and see if it doesn’t inform the lyrics to Williams’s smash hit “Happy”:
Welcome to the planet Earth — a place of blue nitrogen skies, oceans of liquid water, cool forests and soft meadows, a world positively rippling with life. In the cosmic perspective it is, as I have said, poignantly beautiful and rare; but it is also, for the moment, unique. In all our journeying through space and time, it is, so far, the only world on which we know with certainty that the matter of the Cosmos has become alive and aware.
It might seem crazy what I’m ‘bout to say / Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break / I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space / With the air, like I don’t care, baby, by the way
Egg, meet chicken. Williams’s happiness comes from without — the sky, the sun, fresh air — so a Sagan portrait is likely to jazz him up before a big gig. Let’s celebrate an artist’s weirdness, especially if it means more Sagan in Hollywood.