About the Album:
Much had changed since Pink Floyd released their debut album in 1967, the psychedelic classic Piper at the Gates of Dawn. 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon became one of the biggest albums of all time, establishing the band as of history’s most successful and most important bands. “Gone were the days when they attracted this artsy crowd that sat quietly and enjoyed the music. Now they were on the same popularity plane as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones playing stadiums so the audiences were rowdier, got drunk and sometimes shot off fireworks.” J1
By the conclusion of their In the Flesh tour in support of their 1977 album Animals, the band were growing weary of their status as arena rockers. Bassist and singer Roger Waters found it depressing and alienating to play large stadiums. Fans couldn’t even see the band and sometimes weren’t even listening to the music. Waters was also disillusioned “with stardom and the godlike status that fans grant to simple rock stars.” BU
On the final date of the tour at the Montreal Olympic Stadium in July 1977, he spat on a particularly noisy fan who was part of a group who had been shouting at the band through the entire show. V1
Guitarist and singer David Gilmour was frustrated as well. He refused to play the encore, leaving backup guitarist Snowy White to perform. He wasn’t sure what was left for the band to do.
During the making of the subsequent album The Wall, Waters actually pitched the idea to the band of “constructing a wall or a barrier on the stage to separate himself from the audience.” WA While the band nixed that idea, the eventual stage production of the album did incorporate the actual building of a wall across the stage.
Waters developed the idea of “an emotionally crippled rock star” AMG named Pink based on himself and former bandmate Syd Barrett. The story traces the protagonist “from his boyhood days in war-torn England to his self-imposed isolation as a world-renownedrock star, leading to a climax that is as questionably cathartic as it is destructive.” BU The character builds a metaophorical wall to block out the trauma he has endured, including his father’s death in World War II, an overbearing mother, a soul-sucking educational system, and a failed marriage. The largely autobiographical story became an elaborate double album which explored feelings of alienation, abandonment, isolation, and despair and how people build walls to protect themselves.
Presenting the Idea to the Band
While Gilmour and keyboardist Rick Wright were working on solo albums, Waters developed not only a 90-minute demo with the working title Bricks in the Wall, but another concept album called The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking The latter was about a “man's dreams across one night, and dealt with marriage, sex, and the pros and cons of monogamy and family life versus promiscuity.” WA
When the band reconvened in July 1978, Waters presented both ideas to the band. They unanimously chose the first. Waters eventually released the other as his first solo album in 1984.
Waters conceived the project as an album, live show, and movie from the beginning. He even brought on artist and animator Gerald Scarfe early on in the project. He provided pieces which would be used in the album art, on the tour, and in the movie.
Recording the Album
The band hired Bob Ezrin to produce The Wall, which would be the band’s eleventh studio album. He previously worked with Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, and Lou Reed. Ezrin encouraged Waters to make the story less autobiographical so that it would have more widespread appeal. That helped change The Wall into “a metaphorical story of Everyman, portraying events and emotional states (albeit, in the extreme) that nearly all of us can personally relate to.” BU
The album was recorded in several locations, including France, New York, and Los Angeles from December 1978 to November 1979. Production costs were $700,000. V1 During recording, the band was advised to leave the UK by April 1979 for a minimum of one year to avoid paying UK taxes since they were at risk of bankruptcy.
Waters’ bullying behavior rubbed Ezrin and other bandmates the wrong way. At one point, Waters proclaimed that this was his album and he was just letting the others play on it. V1 Gilmour considered Waters a good lyricist, but didn’t think he was as strong at the music. V1
Meanwhile, Rick Wright, who’ been with the band since the beginning, wanted a producing credit on the album. After a confrontation with Ezrin – who was often trying to take the reins on keyboard J1 – he ended up working only at night when the others weren’t around. Gilmour was annoyed by Wright’s lack of input. Wright was dealing with a divorce and missing his school-age children and has acknowledged feeling “creatively bankrupt.” J1 When the band agreed to return early from vacation to finish the album in time for a Christmas release, Wright refused to cut his time short with his family. Waters demanded that Wright be fired from the band or he would release The Wall himself as a solo album. Wright continued to work on the album and subsequent tour as a session musician.
With such an involved and complicated story, it was no wonder that the album spurned dedicated followers as well as mixed reviews. On one hand, it has been called “possibly the greatest rock opera ever recorded.” V1 Sales would support such a claim from a purely objective standpoint. It ranks as one of th best-selling albums of all time, and Pink Floyd’s second-best seller, only behind Dark Side of the Moon.
However, it can also be viewed as “a narcissistic, double-album rock opera” AMG which “has become synonymous with, if not the very definition of, the term ‘concept album.’” BU All Music Guide called it “a series of fragments that are held together by larger numbers” AMG and said that while “the fully developed songs are among the finest of Pink Floyd’s later work, …The Wall is primarily a triumph of production: its seamless surface, blending melodic fragments and sound effects, makes the musical shortcomings and questionable lyrics easy to ignore.” AMG
Reviewer J.T. Curtis says, The Wall is “a towering achievement” but “I get bored listening to one slow, morose tune after another.” J1 He especially thinks some of the song on the second disc show the lack of band input. J1
“If The Wall is examined in depth, it falls apart, since it doesn’t offer enough great songs to support its ambition, and its self-serving message and shiny production seem like relics of the late-‘70s Me Generation.” AMG A reviewer for Melody Maker said, “‘I’m not sure whether it’s brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling.’” WA
The Wall, Part 1
“When the Tigers Broke Free Part 1”
This wasn’t on the original album, but is the first Pink Floyd song featured in the movie. Waters has claimed it was written specifically for the movie, but also said it was just a song they had lying around. BU Part 1 of the song recounts events which take place while Pink is in utero. It is a “raw, straight-forward narrative more akin to the personal portraits of…The Final Cut,” BU an album essentially built on outtakes from The Wall. In fact, “Tigers” was included on that album’s re-release in 2004. It was also on the 2001 compilation Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.
It is actually preceded by a bit of Vera Lynn’s “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot,” a song “at once nostalgic and poignant in its quiet depiction of that universal transition from innocence to experience.” BU The live album Is There Anybody Out There opens with Lynn’s wartime classic “We’ll Meet Again,” BU a song which shared “hopeful uncertainty.” BU
Curtis says he thinks this should have been on the album instead of “Vera,” which appears on the second disc. J1
“In the Flesh?”
This is the song that kicks off the album. “The pounding guitars, monstrous organ, and heavy bass and drums flood the listener in aural spectacle, propelling the audience into the story without a preparatory breath.” BU It’s interesting that Pink Floyd choose to start the story “with one of the more narratively and metaphorically complicated songs on the entire album.” BU The song simultaneously introduces us to Pink via his birth, his adult life, and his concert persona. In regards to the latter, the song actually falls last chronologically as this is the first concert Pink performs after he has torn down the metamorphical wall he created.
This song and “Tigers” are flashbacks experienced by Pink about his father, who was killed during the Anizo bridgehead during World War II. Waters’ father, Eric Fletcher Waters, died when Roger was five months old. He was killed in February 18, 1944 during the Battle of Anzio.
The song title is taken from the name of Pink Floyd’s 1977 tour in support of the Animals album. The song starts soft, but quickly changes. “The transition from the quiet melody to loud rock piece marks the beginning of Pink’s rock concert” B1 at which he taunts the audience about why they are there and how their hero worship of rock stars has contributed to his isolationism. The concert employs the sound effects of a bomber jet segueing into a baby crying, which leads to the next song.
“The Thin Ice”
“The wispy piano chords and swelling synthesizers of the song’s first half provide an aural breather from the pounding chaos that is ‘In the Flesh?’” BU The song is about Pink being raised alone by his mother after his father’s death. It flashes “back to Pink’s infancy, contrasting the innocence of childhood with the harsh reality of life,” B1 delving into “the emotional turmoil that lies just beneath the calm surface.” BU As the story moves on, the listener learns that “Pink’s self-imposed bricks are a large cause for the cracks in his mental ice.” BU
The song features lead vocals from Gilmour, then Waters. Curtis says he prefers Gilmour’s gentler voice and that he has a harder time connecting with Waters’ voice, which he considers to be a bit much. J1
“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1”
There is no pause between this song and “The Thin Ice,” “no quiet break for analytical reflection…For Pink, the threat alone of the cracks beneath his feet lead directly to him cementing his first bricks into place.” BU He starts building a metaphorical wall around himself to cope with the absence of his father and the “emotional baggage you inherit from previous generations.” B1 In the movie, Pink is depicted during this sequence as a boy of 5 to 7 years old, “roughly the same time that a person’s psyche really starts to develop a sense of self." BU
Musically the song “establishes the musical thread used by the rest of the ‘Brick in the Wall’ songs. THe use of this shared guitar riff…reflects the changing personality of Pink throughout the first half of his journey.” BU
“When the Tigers Broke Free, Part 2”
“When the Tigers Broke Free” was broken into two parts in the movie, but combined together for a single release in 1982. The second part is “much more personally and emotionally charged” BU than the first part. Pink finds the announcement of his father’s death that was sent to his mother by the British government. He “feels betrayed by his country, especially those in power, for sending his father to war and treating his death as just another statistic.” BU
“The Happiest Days of Our Lives”
As Pink grows older, he is tormented by abusive teachers “who would stop at nothing to eradicate individuality and humiliate their students.” BU The ironic title mocks the notion that we are supposed to be happiest in our childhood. “The sounds of children playing in the school yard are drowned out by the sound of a helicopter and the shouting of their teacher over a megaphone, establishing an authoritarian and militaristic tone.” B1
“Waters’ taciturn vocals…add to the sinister effect created by the lyrics” BU and his “brooding bass guitar adds another layer of acrimony.” BU
“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”
The big hit single from the album and the band’s most successful song of their career carried out the ideas introduced in “Lives” with Pink offering a blistering assessment of teachers who were verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically, abusive of their students. The accompanying video shows a factory-style school where “children march in unison to the same beat, rolling through a machine only to emege as putty-faced clones void of individuality.” BU
The song embraces the idea of students rebelling against institutions that oppress them simply to churn out faceless clones, factory style. Interestingly, there is no mention of “I;” “instead we’re met with a collective ‘We don’t need no education,’ a statement suggesting that even in revolution, conformity is king.” BU The video emphasizes this when the children “march down the hall in lockstep rhythm…They have become just as homogenous as when they were school clones.” BU Interestingly, “Pink is absent in his own personal fantasy of retribution…Already his view of self is so low, his wall so high, that he doesn’t play a part even in his wildest imaginings.” BU
While generations of kids have now adopted the song “as an anarchistic hymn…against…years of educational oppression” BU Waters has clarified that this song and “Lives” “are not “blanket condemnations against all educational systems. As with any institution, there are good and bed members.” BU
It was Ezrin’s idea to release this as a single with a disco-style beat. Mason and Waters were more enthusiastic than Gilmour, although Waters wasn’t sure about releasing it as a single. When a multitracked vocal of a group of schoolchildren was added to the mix, “Waters was ‘beaming’ at the result.” WA Specifically, 23 children from Islington Green School were added to the chorus. There was some controversy that the children were not paid; they were eventually given copies of the album and the school received a donation.
While not a single, this song got a lot of airplay at classic rock radio stations. It has the quality of a “soothing lullaby but with a much darker message.” B1 As an adult, Pink recalls asking his mother about his fears. He even wonders if life is worth it. She promises him to help build his wall, albeit through her overprotective, oppressive, and overbearing Orwellian style. She is “the greatest mother-centered protagonist in the history of rock music.” BU Waters said, “If you can level one accusation at mothers it is that they tend to protect their children too much. Too much and for too long.” BU
At this point, Pink is a teenager – a time “generally thought of as an age of self-discovery, a time when one must adapt and reinvent himself.” BU However, “between Pink’s searching questions and his mother’s idiosyncratic, evasive nursery rhym styled answers, what should be a lesson in self discovery quickly becomes one of self improvement.” BU
The song features Jeff Porcaro of Toto on drums. Like “Brick II,” this also features vocals from Gilmour and Waters. In “Mother,” Waters sings the questions posed by Pink while Gilmour sings the responses from Mother.
“Goodbye Blue Sky”
Pink recalls the experience of the Blitz, the German bombing of British cities. It becomes representative of a trauma endured by an individual as well as entire nation. “The color blue is symbolic of innocence and the sky is a symbol of life and freedom.” B1 “Pink is saying goodbye to the freedom, life, and innocence that the bombings robbed him and the country of.” B1 Waters says this is a song about “remembering one’s childhood and then getting ready to set off into the rest of one’s life.” BU
The song features Gilmour on lead vocals and “the harmonies…are hauntingly beautiful.” J1 This is featured before “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” in the movie. Scarfe said this is his favorite sequence in the movie. J2
“What Shall We Do Now?”
This song was intended to be on the original album but was cut due to length and replaced with “Empty Spaces.” It was so late in the process, that lyrics for the song showed up on original pressings of the album. It was added to the live performances (including the Is There Anybody Out There? live album). It replaced “Empty Spaces” in the movie, coming after the song “Mother.”
The song is about how “when one bases self worth and identity on the external, he or she is never satisfied.” BU There is commentary that while we mistakenly believe “we are asserting our individuality through our fancy cars, designer clothes, and workaholic lives, we are in actuality blending in with the rest of the masses.” BU “It’s the obsession with defining one’s self by someone else’s standards that leads to personal and social decay.” BU
This was a shorter song which took the place of “What Shall We Do Now?” on the original album. It features a “synth-driven…industrial rhythm that sounds like something you’d hear in a steel mill.” J1 The song serves as a transition from Pink’s childhood to adulthood. It references his estranged relationship to his wife and ponders how to fill the empty spaces in his wall.
In real life, Waters said “if it had not been for his wife, Carolyn, and her insistence on communication, he would have ended up as insane as Pink...No matter how stubborn he got or how hard he tried to push his wife away, Carolyn would force him to open up and talk.” BU
Pink is now a rock star. While touring the United States, he has sex with groupies to relieve the tedium. The song “is so vibrantly cliché and the vocals [by Gilmour] so infectious that the song, while lampooning the sexually driven, big-guitar-rock songs and bands of the time, transcends its mold.” BU The song recounts Pink’s newfound sexual freedom while also mocking the idea that having lots of sex makes him a real man. At one point, he calls home and finds out about his wife’s infidelity.
“The song that is ostensibly about Pink’s sexual independence concludes with an emasculating phone call that turns the tables on his implied promiscuity.” BU It incorporates an actual call to Nick Mason, who wasn’t informed about what was going on, thought it was a prank, and angrily hung up. There was also a real telephone operator who served as an unwitting participant. The call references Waters’ bitter divorce in 1975 from Judy, his first wife.
“One of My Turns”
Pink brings a groupie back to his hotel room but ignores her and watches TV. His struggle to deal with his wife’s infidelity and his inability to communicate with her and others leads to a violent outburst in which he destroys the room and threatens to throw the groupie off the balcony. Pink “turns on the terrified groupie, possibly because he sees her as a substitute for his wife and her adulterous actions, possibly because she represents the very superficial life in which he had invested so much.” BU
The song uses the actual sounds of a television set and dishes being destroyed. Trudy Young provides the voice for the groupie. Interestingly, she is the only character other than Pink who gets a voice of her own. BU
“Don’t Leave Me Now”
Pink is depressed thinking about his wife and feels trapped in his hotel room. He can’t understand why she would leave him. He seems oblivious to how he has abused her, repeating the pattern of how he was abused by his mother and the educational system. Waters has also suggested this could be Pink singing not just to his wife, but anybody – a plea to not be left alone. BU
In the movie, an animated version of Pink’s wife – based on the puppet from the live shows – appears. There’s a shot of Pink with a cigarette burned nearly to the end. It was inspired by Waters finding Syd Barrett catatonic in a hotel chair, gazing at nothing with a cigarette burned down to his fingers.
“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3”
Pink adds more bricks to his wall while rejecting human contact and turning to medication. Pink is convincing himself that his angry rejection of everything and subsequent isolation it will bring him is the right thing to do. He smashes up a TV playing an old war movie. “The smash is repeated several times, finally giving way to a familiar guitar riff that is no longer the soft drone in the background ias it was in ‘Part 1,’ nor the lively anthem of youthful anarchy in ‘Part 2.’ Rather, the swirling, phaser-laced guitars and synthesizer coupled with the adrenalized heartbeat-like kickdrum coalesce into a savage declaration” BU that “I don’t need no arms around me.”
“Goodbye Cruel World”
Pink’s wall is complete and he has now fully isolated himself from the world. He bids farewell to the world, suggesting he may be suicidal. However, it “is more about metaphoric rather than physical death.” BU Waters said Pink “is going catatonic…he’s had enough, that’s the end.” BU “Figuratively speaking, the wall silences all.” BU
This song concludes the first of the two discs. Curtis says “despite some hiccups, it’s a solid record all by itself. If they had just ended it right at ‘Goodbye Cruel World,’ I would have been satisfied.” J1 Waters has said he originally planned to end the album with the building of the wall. J1
The Wall, Part 2
Pink realizes his mistake in isolating himself from society, but it is too late for him to rectify the problem. He now wants people to emotionally connect with him although he has made no effort to improve his own abilities at doing so. He references “the worms,” which Waters said was a symbol of the decay which will set in when one isolates himself from others. B2
“For some, the song is a perfect introduction to the album’s second half, rehashing the larger themes at play in the first half. Others aregu that, great song though it is, it’s more than a little out of place on the album both narratively and thematically.” BU The song was cut from the movie, but is available as a bonus cut on the DVD. In the original track listing for the album, this song followed “Comfortably Numb.” B2
“Is There Anybody Out There?”
“Rare is the song that can create such an atmposhere with so relatively little – namely a handful of sound effects and a single lyric repeated with various intonations culminating in a haunting, classical guitar melody set over a mood-perfect orchestral arrangement.” BU Pink locks himself in his hotel room, wondering if there is “anybody out there” who can help him. The song conveys “Pink’s ever-fracturing psyche, the expansiveness of his wall, and his growing realization as to the serious consequences of absolute disconnection from the world.” BU
Pink “years for a freedom he cannot obtain,” BU partly because “he has no true home or loved one to which he can fly.” BU He turns to his possessions for comfort, the only thing he feels like he can still call his own. He then tries to list intangibles, but is depressed trying to call his estranged wife and finding nobody home. “If ‘Young Lust’ is the flashy, sex-driven rock star archetype, ‘Nobody Home’ is the worn-out, drugged out rock star archetype.” BU The song makes lyrical references (“wild, staring eyes,” “the obligatory Hendrix perm,” and “elastic bands keeping my shoes on”) to former Pink Floyd bandmate Syd Barrett, hinting at his condition during the band’s aborted tour of 1967.
The song features orchestral arrangements by Michael Kamen and Ezrin on piano. Gilmour has said it is one of his favorite songs on the album. J1
During live performances of “Nobody Home,” a hotel room emerges from one of the bricks. The look was based on the Hotel Tropicana where many of the crew stayed during tech rehearsals. The chair used in the scene for “Nobody Home” was actually from the hotel. V2
Pink yearns for the idea of connecting with his personal roots in recalling the singer Vera Lynn and specifically the song “We’ll Meet Again,” her wartime classic used to open the live performances. The song is about the cautious hope families held about being reunited after a family member went off to war. Pink is now questioning if there is any point in holding out hope.
“Bring the Boys Back Home”
This song surveys “the personal and social devastation caused by conflict.” BU Pink flashes back to World War II when people were demanding that the soldiers come home. This song and “Vera” show Pink going back and reflecting on his trauma in losing his father to the war.
Waters has said he considers it the central song on the album, which is odd since it “doesn’t appear to deal directly with Pink’s story arc, or even feature Pink at all.” BU Waters said. “It’s partly about not letting people go off and be killed in wars. But it’s also partly about not allowing rock and roll…or anything…become…more important than other people.” B2
Back in the present, Pink’s manager and roadies barge into his hotel room and find him unresponsive. A doctor ignores Pink’s comments about feeling psychologically distraught and only treats perceived physical symptoms, shooting him up with drugs so that he’ll be able to take the stage. This “could have been the human contact that led him to de-isolate himself, but it ended up being a reminder of the greed of the music industry and just general awfulness that led Pink to isolate himself in the first place.” B2
This references an incident in Philadelphia during the In the Flesh tour. Waters was injected with a muscle relaxant by a doctor who thought he was experiencing cramps due to food poisoning. In reality, Waters was suffering from the effects of hepatitis. He said it was the longest two hours of his life. He couldn’t even lift his arms. If the doctor had just left him alone, Waters says he could have endured the pain and got through the show okay. B2
Gilmour said, “I think things like ‘Comfortably Numb’ were the last embers of mine and Roger’s ability to work collaboratively together.” WA Some fans consider the dissection of a rock star falling victim to drugs “the quintessential Pink Floyd song.” BU It is also considered the highlight of the live performances with Gilmour appearing atop the wall to perform the guitar solo for “Comfortably Numb.” “He never overplays, he builds the dynamics to a screaming climax, and the tone is out of this world.” J1
The song features orchestral arrangements by Michael Kamen. Gilmour and Waters both handle lead vocals with Gilmour doing the voice of Pink and Waters taking the role of the doctor.
“The Show Must Go On”
The drugs kick in and Pink finds himself hallucinating on stage. “Part of Pink’s human frailty is placed front and center in the childish tantrum of the choir’s lyrics, crying for ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ to ‘take me home’ and ‘let me go.’” BU At the same time, Pink is adapting a “larger-than-life persona” and putting on a face for his fans, “merely another mask, a disguise, a persona covering over the rather flawed, human soul beneath.” BU
This was not on the soundtrack. Originally the Beach Boys were supposed to provide backing vocals on this and “Waiting for the Worms,” but Waters went with Bruce Johnston (of the Beach Boys) and Toni Tennille.
“In the Flesh”
Pink’s brain has been consumed by “the worms” (in other words, he’s spiralled into insanity) and he now feels free to express his fully, non-politically correct self. The song recalls the introductory “In the Flesh?,” which introduced the character of Pink. This time, the listener is introduced to the new incarnation of Pink. He now believes he is a fascist dictator. This symbolizes his demand from his audience to be idolized as a rock star. He sees the concert as a rally in which he rails on minorities and anyone who is different or who he deems unworthy of being his fan.
Waters has explained that “when someone is in isolation for so long, they are stripped of their humanity and take it out on easy targets; in this case, minorities.” J1 It can also be viewed as Waters’ contempt for his audiences and the music industry in general. J1
“Run Like Hell”
Pink now threatens his audience with physical violence if they aren’t loyal to him. The movie depicts a fascist state in which the police are attacking minorities. The song can also be interpreted as Pink’s own wish to run from “the worms” which are consuming his sanity. It is “arguable whether Pink is, in reality, performing on stage, or whether these songs are all part of his delusion.” BU
This is another rocker featuring Gilmour and “a proper synth solo from Rick.” J1 Curtis says the album could have ended here. J1
“Waiting for the Worms”
“The worms” have been refererenced previously as a symbol of decay, specifically the demise of Pink’s sanity. The song is musically similar to “The Show Must Go On,” which is when the drugs star to kick in, but now the drugs are starting to wear off. Pink engages in another rant about ethnic cleansing with specific lyrical references to the holocaust and other historical atrocities carried out against minorities. The song shows “the dominance of the Hitler-esque figure that’s assumed control over Pink’s mind.” BU He is becoming the “very sort of force that killed his father.” BU Still, “there is a slightly reasonable, somewhat cognizant self trapped beneath,” BU hinting “at the potential for change and eventual rebellion over the worms of decay.” BU
“5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)”
This was not on original album. It was recorded for the soundtrack and released on Roger Waters’ debut solo album, 1984’s The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.
“Your Possible Pasts”
This was also a song not on original album. It was recorded for the soundtrack and released on Pink Floyd’s 1983 album The Final Cut.
In this thirty-second piece, Pink’s hallucinations cease and he begs for everything to stop. “The reign of Dictator Pink is brought to an end, not through years of war and futile sacrifice but rather by human accountability.” BU He wants to escape from what he has become and references himself being in a cell, suggesting he has imprisoned himself for his “crimes.”
While Pink is really judging himself, the song creates a scenario in which he is being put on trial and judged by the very characters (the schoolmaster, his wife, his mother) who helped him build his wall. Pink is realizing how his mental state has deteriorated because he has isolated himself from others. The witnesses refuse to take any responsibility for their role in building Pink’s wall, suggesting that Pink might not have done it had they been allowed to inflict him with even more abuse. Ironically, “while most trials determine whether a person goes to jail or not, Pink’s trial will determine whether he will be freed from his self-created prison cell.” BU Ultimately, the judge (a manifestation of Pink) orders that the wall be torn down and Pink be exposed to his fears.
The song features orchestral arrangements by Michael Kamen. Curtis says at this point this doesn’t feel like a Pink Floyd song. It was clearly written for the stage show and works better in a live setting with a visual element and different singers taking on the different roles. At his website analyzing the album, Bret Urick says “The Trial” “epitomizes all that is The Wall, combining the album’s high theatrics, unflinching cynicism, dark humor, tongue-in-cheek irony, deep emotion, and (paradoxically) both unwavering nihilism and steadfast optimism.” BU
“Outside the Wall”
With the wall down, Pink has to face the real world once again. It is about “the personal connections that we make with people that help tear down our walls.” B2 Waters has said he wasn’t sure how to end the album. J1 The final words of the album are “isn’t this where…” which connects to the first words of the album, “…We came in.” The continuous loop of that message suggests that the cycle may happen all over again. It serves as a warning that you can only combat your isolation if you allow others in.
“Moral of the story: Though there will always be personal and social barriers erected out of fear, oppression, pain, and isolation, it’s the job of every socially conscious individual and community to never rest in tearing down the walls that separate us.” BU
Waters tapped architect Mark Fisher to help design the shows. He worked with Scarfe to develop the show. The idea was to build a wall, brick by brick, during the show. It stood 33 feet high and 260 feet wide. It was comprised of 450 bricks which weighed about 22 pounds each and measured 5’ x 2 ½’ x 1’. V2 The wall would come tumbling down at the end of the show. The show also included animation and large puppets for the school teacher, mother, and wife characters from the album.
The first show was on February 7, 1980, in Los Angeles. A local radio DJ would open each show, only to be interrupted by a decoy band – complete with masks of the members of Pink Floyd – launching into “In the Flesh.” The real band then entered on the second song.
Waters also demanded that they perform the shows at smaller venues of 20,000 or less. The band only played 31 shows in support of the album with each show losing money because of the huge production cost and the band’s refusal to play larger venues. V2 It is estimated that the band lost $600,000. V2 Ironically, Richard Wright made money because he’d been kicked out of the band and was employed only as a session musician.
A live production of the album recorded in 1980 and 1981 was released in 2000 as Is There Anybody Out There?
In 1990, Waters did a one-night-only performance of The Wall with various artists in honor of the fall of the Berlin wall. In 2010, he launched a solo tour performing The Wall. He did 200 shows over the next three years making it the highest-grossing tour for a solo musician. V2
A 99-minute film which mixed live action and animation was released in July 1982. It was directed by Alan Parker, who said it “was the worst filming experience of his life.” V3 It took 60 days to shoot, eight months to edit, and features over 10,000 handmade animated drawings.
Parker initially passed when Waters approached him. When he did agree, his fears were realized. He continuously butted heads with Waters and Scarfe over the vision for the film. Waters and Scarfe didn’t realize how difficult making a film was and Parker felt trapped by a story which prohibited him from making changes to make the story work better on film. Gilmour had to step in at the end to push to let Parker oversee the final edit of the film. It contributed to the rift between Gilmour and Waters that led to Waters departure after 1983’s The Final Cut.
Once he did agree, he had a hard time getting a studio to bite because they weren’t sure what the film was. The original plan was to incorporate live concert footage, but the idea was scrapped. Lighting was the biggest issue because it would have required shining bright lights on the audience. In the end, the band didn’t even appear in the film. Curtis considers the lack of any live performance one of the biggest flaws of the movie. J2
Waters also intended to star in the film himself, but he didn’t test well. Wanting a musician in the role of Pink, he approached Bob Geldof after seeing him in the video for “I Don’t Like Mondays” by his band, the Boomtown Rats. Geldof said no originally. He was from the punk generation and wasn’t a Floyd fan. Parker eventually convinced him.
Waters called the movie “deeply flawed” J2 and Gilmour said he thinks the story is better told through the album or the live show. J2 Because the songs so closely aligned to the original album, a soundtrack was not released.