Classic Rock Review: Pink Floyd – The Wall

As Pink Floyd’s most elaborate, rock opera release, The Wall tells the story of narcissistic and deranged rock star ‘Pink’ whose life has been crippled by all of the excesses of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.  Masterminded by Floyd bassist/lyricist, Roger Waters, the album was first conceived during Pink Floyd’s 1977 In the Flesh Tour when, according to Waters, his “frustration with the spectators’ perceived boorishness became so acute that I imagined building a wall between the performers and the audience.”

Loosely based on both Roger Waters and former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett, The Wall follows Pink’s relentless emotional turmoil that eventually manifests into an imagined alternate existence and complete isolation from society. Fueled by a myriad of tumultuous life experiences, Pink’s neurosis ultimately replaces his reality as he transcends into a life of promiscuity, drug use and outbursts of violence.

It is through each song that Pink’s life is revealed to the listener. From the loss of his father in World War II (“Empty Spaces”), his overprotective mother (“Mother”), his domineering teachers (“Another Brick in the Wall”, “…Pt. II”) and the loss of his wife to another man (“Don’t Leave Me Now”), each life event becomes a metaphorical “brick in the wall.” As the album progresses the story highlights Pink’s personal milestone – the completion of his “wall.” As he lingers in a state of nothingness, he is tempted by thoughts of suicide, musically represented by (arguably) the best song on the album – “Comfortably Numb.” Through brilliant lyrical and auditory execution, the song is a perfect depiction of a life that is only barely hanging on.  As his crisis escalates, Pink transcends into a completely different state of mind – rage. As he tantalises over thoughts of regaining control, Pink is overcome by hallucinations of himself as a fascist dictator. Musically captured by the totalitarian-sounding “In the Flesh,” the song utilises provocative lyrical themes that highlights an incessant hatred for human kind. Alluding strongly to the Nazi’s of World War II, Pink’s illusion intensifies into chaos (“Run Like Hell” and “Waiting for the Worms”) but is dramatically dissolved through his own personal guilt (“The Trial”). Ending with the echoing voices shouting for Pink to “tear down the wall” the album finishes with no real sense of completion – indicating the cyclical nature of Pink’s emotional “disease.”

Commendations

With musical and lyrical motifs that complement the concept perfectly, Pink Floyd’s eleventh studio release is an exceptional part of their overall discography. While the album may lack “big number songs” that feature heavily on other albums, such as Wish You Were Here and The Dark Side of the Moon, it fulfils its main objective of communicating Pink’s tragic story through music and lyrics. As a complete package, the album was split onto two discs with a cover featuring only a simplistic white wall. Inside, the booklet showcased the unique artwork of cartoonist Gerald Scarfe of which was later emphasised in the film version of the album. Figuratively the audience can imagine the physical album as being representative of the theme itself – a simplistic outer shell that, on the inside, plays host to a complex collection of stories both real and imagined.

Next Steps

The Wall topped the Billboard charts for 15 weeks, and in 1999 was certified 23x platinum. It remains one of the best-selling albums of all-time in the U.S.

In 1982, Waters joined with director Alan Parker to create a live-action /animated musical film based on the album itself. The film eventually earned $22 million, made it into the Top 03 at the U.S. Box Office, and won its creators two British Academy Awards.

In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine placed The Wall 87th on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Also in 2011, Roger Waters commenced his tour of The Wall – Live, reviving the success of the original tour in 1980. Described as “one of the most ambitious and complex rock shows ever staged” and grossing over $90 million in North America alone!

Tracklist:

  1. In the Flesh?
  2. The Thin Ice
  3. Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
  4. The Happiest Days of Our Lives
  5. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
  6. Mother
  7. Goodbye Blue Sky
  8. Empty Spaces
  9. Young Lust
  10. One of My Turns
  11. Don’t Leave Me Now
  12. Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
  13. Goodbye Cruel World
  14. Hey You
  15. Is There Anybody Out There?
  16. Nobody Home
  17. Vera
  18. Bring the Boys Back Home
  19. Comfortably Numb
  20. The Show Must Go On
  21. In the Flesh
  22. Run Like Hell
  23. Waiting for the Worms
  24. Stop
  25. The Trial
  26. Outside the Wall

 

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