The Wall Pink Floyd’s 11th studio album, a double vinyl release on 30 November 1979, by Dj Rex
This was soon followed be an extravaganza performance with elaborate theatrical effects, and adapted into the movie of the same name.
The Wall is a concept album and deals largely with subject of personal segregation. With the band having ideas for the Wall during the band’s 1977 In the Flesh Tour, this is the tour where bassist and lyricist Roger Waters’ became frustrated with the spectators’ boorishness that seemed to him to be so acute that he began to imagine building a wall between them and the audience.
The Wall is a rock opera that centres on a character called Pink, largely based on Roger Waters. Pink’s story begins with the loss of his father during World War 2 and continue to abusive schoolteachers, an overprotective mother and the breakdown of his marriage, including into the story his self-induced isolation from civilization, represented by the symbolic “Wall” of the album title.
The Wall was hugely successful album, becoming one of the best selling of 1980. It’s even in the top five best-selling albums of all time in the US.
Some of the inspiration for the Wall came from an incident during the In The Flesh tour, the band were becoming depressed and disillusioned with playing such large venues, an incident on this tour led to Waters spitting on a particularly noisy fan in the front row, many of them hated playing in stadiums and spoke of how they desired to separate themselves from the audience by constructing a wall or a barrier across the stage.
While Gilmour and Wright were in France recording solo albums, and Nick Mason was busy producing Steve Hillage’s album Green, Waters began to write new material. Waters’ spitting incident became the basis for the new concept, which explored the audience’s separation from the performers on stage.
In July 1977 the band got together at Britannia Row where Waters presented two new ideas, one was a ninety-minute demo with the working title Bricks in the Wall, the other of Water’s ideas went on to become his first solo concept album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking.
Waters and Ezrin set to work on improving the concept story line. The forty-page script they created was presented to the rest of the band, with positive results. The next day at the studio, they had a round table reading, similar to actors would with a play, but with the whole of the band, they because they became very excited because they could now “see” the album.
Although Waters wrote most of the album’s material, Gilmour contributed to songs like “Run Like Hell”, and “Young Lust”. Ezrin also co-wrote “The Trial”. Engineer Nick Griffiths later said the Canadian producer Ezrin was very good in The Wall, “he did manage to pull the whole thing together. He’s a very forceful guy, there was a lot of arguments about how it should sound between Roger and Dave, and he bridged the gap between them.”
The story unfolds, Hidden behind his wall, Pink’s predicament escalates, culminating in a hallucinogenic stage performance where he believes he’s a fascist dictator performing at Neo-Nazi style concerts and rallies, Pink even sets his men on fans he considers unworthy. The subsequent guilt torments Pink to such a degree, he places himself on trial, with his inner judge ordering him to “tear down the wall”, opening Pink to the outside world. The story turns full circle with its closing words “Isn’t this where…” (the opening song on the album beginning with the words “…we came in?”), with the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of Waters’ premise.
The album also includes several references to former band member Syd Barrett. “Nobody Home” hinting at his condition during Pink Floyd’s abortive US tour of 1967, with comments such as “wild, staring eyes”, “Hendrix perm” and “Gohills Boots”. The lyrics to the following song, “Comfortably Numb”, were written as an allegory of Waters’ experiences during the band’s 1977 In the Flesh Tour, where he was injected with a muscle relaxant to combat the effects of hepatitis.
“Comfortably Numb” originally planned for Gilmour’s solo album, Ezrin claimed that the song initially started life as “…Roger’s record, about Roger, for Roger”, although he thought that it needed further work. Waters re-worked the arrangement and added more lyrics for the chorus, but his “stripped-down and harder” recording was not to Gilmour’s taste. The guitarist preferred Ezrin’s “…grander Technicolor, orchestral version”, although Ezrin preferred Waters’ version. Following a full-scale row, the two came to a compromise; with the main part of the song having the orchestral arrangement and Gilmour’s second and final guitar solo on it’s own.
Ezrin and Waters sought out the sound effects for the album…. Waters got hold of a phone call used on the original demo for Young Lust, but failed to tell its recipient. Waters recorded some ambient sounds along Hollywood Boulevard, by hanging a microphone from the studio window. Phil Taylor (the engineer) recorded screeching tyre noises for “Run Like Hell” from the studio car park, and the destruction of a television set was used on “One of My Turns”, Nick Griffiths also recorded the smashing of crockery for the same song. Various television broadcasts were used on the album and one actor, recognising his own voice, later threatened to sue, but accepted a settlement offer.
The maniacal schoolmaster throughout the album was voiced by Waters, and actress Trudy Young supplied the groupie’s voice and backing vocals were performed by a range of artists.
The cover design is stunning and one of Pink Floyd’s most minimalistic, a simple white brick wall and no text (the logo and band name is presented on a sticker), but doesn’t everyone recognise what it is on a simple glance?
So, how much of an influence was it really? If you do need to ask this, then please stop listening to music ever, you really do know nothing, but here’s a few facts to help you, The Wall has been covered by several acts, including Canadian alternative country band Luther Wright and The Wrongs, who recorded a bluegrass cover of the entire album titled Rebuild the Wall. As a celebration of The Wall’s 20th anniversary, as part of his “Out of Phase” project, producer and artist Peter Mossman released The Wall 2000, an ambient electronic version of the album. One of the most recent and most successful was Korn who joined all 3 parts of Another Brick In The Wall together.
From stage to movie …..
Gerald Scarfe was employed to produce a series of animations for The Wall. 40 animators were employed to create a series of nightmarish visions, including a dove of peace exploding to reveal an eagle, a schoolmaster and Pink’s mother.
During each performance of the live show of The Wall Tour, a 12-meter high wall of cardboard bricks was gradually built between the band and audience. Gaps allowed the spectators to view various scenes in the story, as animator Gerald Scarfe’s animations were projected onto the completed parts of the wall.
Several characters from the story were made into giant inflatables, including a pig and the crossed hammers logo.
Kicking off the tour in Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on 7 February 1980. One of the most memorable elements was the band’s performance of “Comfortably Numb”. Waters sang his opening verse in front of the wall, Gilmour waited in darkness at the top of the wall, for his cue. When it came, bright blue and white lights lit him up, amazing the audience. Gilmour stood on a flight case on castors, held steady by a roadie, both precariously balanced on a hydraulic platform. With the wall being made to collapse at the end of the show, once again revealing the band.
Scarfe’s animations were also to have been used in a film based on the album, accompanied by live concert footage, but the latter proved too impractical to film. Alan Parker agreed to direct the film and kept the animated sequences but also used professional actors in each scene, with no dialogue. Bob Geldof took the role of Pink, although this was a part written for David Bowie, although I can’t find any reason why he didn’t take this roll on.
So, I’m aware I’m waffling and I really hope this has been at least someway interesting for you to read, Pink Floyd’s the wall, quite simply a seminal moment in music history, influencing rock, the 80s, trance, including artists from the Orb to Korn. If you’re one of the few that haven’t heard this album, turn the lights down, put a copy on the stereo and admire the sheer majesty of this incredible piece of musical genius.
to finish off a bit of musical marvel –