Pink Floyd | The Wall – Classic Commentary


Pink Floyd’s The Wall was bound for greatness despite the financial woes and internal friction brewing between the band’s principals — Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason. Or perhaps in spite of it. Waters apparently drew his initial inspiration for the piece from a personal encounter in which he off-handedly hawked a loogie at some innocent, screaming neophyte in the front row of a Pink Floyd concert in Montreal, sometime in 1977. His contempt for his audience had sullied contempt for the music business and everything that came with it — the egos, the money, and ultimately the other band mates. And yet, Waters still needed the clout and influence of Pink Floyd to transcend his message. Waters is fond of calling The Wall his own creation (and toured it relentlessly under his own name). Somehow, though, it will always belong to Pink Floyd.

The Wall was a strange collaboration — a final one among the four band members — that included producer Bob Ezrin, animator Gerald Scarfe, composer Michael Kamen, and dozens of extra musicians, singers, actors, artists, and architects. It required a lot of foreshadowing and flashing back, a bit of filling in, and a substantial amount of time and labor spent in meetings and studios in France, England, America, and who knows where. In retrospect, the pain and suffering exerted into the making of The Wall comes through in its sheer weight and sonic thrust. Conceived as a multimedia experience for the stage as well as the silver screen, The Wall alludes to Waters’ own personal nightmare — of losing his father in the war, becoming a rock star, and being worshipped like a fascist demigod. The protagonist carries the burden of Waters’ plight (and to a lesser degree, Syd Barrett’s descent into madness) and is finally put on trial for building a wall between him and the rest of the world. That’s the simplest way to describe it.

At the core is an odd collection of some of Pink Floyd’s greatest pieces. Waters bears the lion’s share as he unravels the plot from the very first note. “In The Flesh?” is an unsettling preamble that forcibly pulls you to the edge of your seat. Once the mood simmers for a spell in the eloquence of “The Thin Ice,” the disc becomes almost conciliatory with the disco inferno of “Another Brick In The Wall (Part Two).” As Floyd’s first legitimate single in years, “Another Brick” baulks in the end by instigating the somewhat subversive lyrics to be sung almost in jest by an impromptu choir of school children. “Comfortably Numb,” its origins stemming from a David Gilmour chord progression, starkly points out the contrasts that lie between Gilmour’s melodic sense and Waters’ gloomy, yet intoxicating words. Once “The Trial” gets underway — waging Waters’ beguiling voice in a head-butt with an orchestra — many listeners are so exhausted they can’t help but chant, “Tear down the &*?@! Wall!”

Released November 30,  1979, The Wall zoomed up the charts to Number One and stayed there for an unprecedented 15 weeks. As a double album, it must have paid off the Floyd’s tax bill and then some. However, the cost to mount the monolithic tour that followed certainly didn’t aid in recouping any expenses. As it turned out, Rick Wright, who was demoted to a salaried player for the shows, was the only one of the four to avoid the overhead. Since then, The Wall has been immortalized many times over. In 1982, it became a full feature film directed by Alan Parker and starring Sir Bob Geldolf in the title role. In 1990, Waters re-staged the epic with several special guests at the foot of the Berlin wall. Floyd’s original shows from 1980-81 were compiled and released as the “live” double CD set entitled Is There Anybody Out There. Waters and an assembled band took it around the world from 2010 through 2013, upping the ante on the visuals and specials effects to great acclaim. A film of the tour would surface in 2014. Over 40 years after its release, there’s no telling what’s around the corner for The Wall.

~ Shawn Perry Bookmark and Share