Released: November 30, 1979
Charted: December 8, 1979
Peak: 115 US, 3 UK, 113 CN, 14 AU
Sales (in millions): 11.5 US, 0.3 UK, 30.7 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: classic rock
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Total Running Time: 81:00
4.278 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)
Quotable: “Has become synonymous with, if not the very definition of, the term ‘concept album.’” – Bret Urick, TheWallAnalysis.com
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Pink Floyd’s The Wall is “a narcissistic, double-album rock opera” AMG which “has become synonymous with, if not the very definition of, the term ‘concept album.’” BU Its “overriding themes are based upon the causes and implications of self-imposed isolation, symbolised by the metaphorical wall of the title.” WK The main character, “an emotionally crippled rock star” AMG “is largely based on the band’s bassist and lyricist Roger Waters.” WK 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 album’s concept “germinated during the band’s 1977 Animals tour when frontman Roger Waters, growing disillusioned with stardom and the godlike status that fans grant to simple rock stars, became disenchanted with the seemingly mindless audience and spit in the face of a concert-goer.” BU The tour was Floyd’s first experience “playing in large stadiums” WK and Waters was “depressed about playing to such large audiences.” WK He experienced a “sense of alienation on the tour…and…sometimes felt like constructing a wall or a barrier on the stage to separate himself from the audience.” WK
The rest of the band weren’t immediately receptive to Waters’ concept and there was ample friction during the recording process. Waters even “insisted that [member Richard] Wright leave, else he would refuse to release The Wall. Several days later…Wright quit…His name did not appear anywhere on the finished album,” WK but he “returned to perform during later concert performances as a salaried musician.” WK
The album’s most successful song was Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2. The band were reluctant to release the commentary on public education as a single, but when a multitracked vocal of a group of schoolchildren was added to the mix, “Waters was ‘beaming’ at the result.” WK
While not singles, Mother and Comfortably Numb proved very successful at classic rock radio. The former is an attack on an overprotective mother with the classic wall reference in the line, “Mother, did it need to be so high?” The latter serves as the central song on the album; some fans consider the dissection of a rock star falling victim to drugs “the quintessential Pink Floyd song.” BU
With such an involved and complicated story, it was no wonder that the album spurned dedicated followers as well as mixed reviews. The All Music Guide called the album “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. But 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.’” WK
Over the years, the album has proved immensely successful and has seen several reincarnations. An elaborately-staged, but very brief, tour opened on February 7, 1980, in Los Angeles. A wall was constructed between the band and the audience during the show. A film version, directed by Alan Parker, was also released in July 1982. In 1990, Roger Waters and guests staged a one-time concert in celebration of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. In 2010, Roger Waters launched a hugely-successful solo tour in which he resurrected the elaborately-staged version of the album.
Notes: A live production of the album recorded in 1980 and 1981 was released in 2000 as Is There Anybody Out There? Roger Waters also performed the album live with numerous guest artists in 1990 in conjunction with the fall of the Berlin Wall. That was released that same year as The Wall – Live in Berlin.
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First posted 3/22/2008; last updated 9/1/2021.